The poem “To Mother” has been written by the Indian poet S. Usha and published in Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry, New Delhi 1994. The poem is based in a feminist perspective and is written in narrative style where a daughter is seen pleading to her mother. The orignal poem is wrtten in Kannada language but has been translated to English by AK Ramanujan.
To Mother S. Usha Summary:
In the poem “To Mother” written by S. Usha, a daughter can be seen pleading to her mother to set her free and not to force the same code of conduct on her which the daughter’s grandmother’s forced on her mother. The poem is quite interesting as the common situations of the real world can be easily compared to the events in the poem. The only two characters shown in the poem are the daughter and the mother, and the difference between their ideologies is what we are going to discuss:
The Daughter’s Pleading
“Mother, don’t, please don’t,
Don’t cut off the sunlight
with your saree spread across the sky
blanching life’s green leaves”
To Mother S. Usha Summary: In the first stanza, the daughter is pleading to her mother to not to cut off the sunlight from her by spreading her saree. Here the sunlight refers to the daughter’s freedom, and the example is given of green leaves. Just like the green leaves which cannot grow if the sunlight is cut off from them, the daughter also cannot live without freedom which her mother is snatching from her. The lines, “Don’t cut off the sunlight with your saree spread across the sky” proves that it is the mother who is trying to snatch the daughter’s freedom from her.
The Restrictions Imposed on the Daughter
“Don’t say : You’re seventeen already,
Don’t flash your sari in the street,
Don’t make eyes at passers-by,
Don’t be a tomboy riding the winds“
To Mother S. Usha Summary: Here the daughter is telling the restrictions which her mother has imposed on her i.e. – to not to show off her clothes in public. Not to make direct contact with passersby and because the daughter is 17, she should also understand that she shouldn’t act like a boy and should be more feminine.
“Don’t play that tune again
That your mother,
her mother and her mother
had played on the snake-charmer’s flute
into the ears of nitwits like me.
I’m just spreading my hood.
I’ll sink my fangs into someone and lose my venom.
Let go, make way.”
To Mother S. Usha Summary: In this stanza, the daughter can be clearly seen revolting against her mother and is telling her to not play the same tune (rules), that her mother and grandmother played (forced) into the ears of young teenage girls like her. The daughter tells her mother that she is just in her growing years and will apply her strength to anyone who comes in her way of freedom.
Breaking the Traditions
“Circumambulating the holy plant
in the yard, making rangoli designs
to see heaven, turning up dead
without light and air,
for god’s sake, I can’t do it.
Breaking out of the dam
you’ve built, swelling
in a thunderstorm,
roaring through the land,
let me live, very different
from you, Mother.
Let go, make way.”
To Mother S. Usha Summary: The daughter says that all the traditions which are forced upon a girl in a society like worshipping the holy plant (Tulsi), making rangolis, etc. to visit heaven after death instead of dying in the dark, the daughter cannot follow them at all. She wants to break the damn which her mother has built on her, break the rules that her mother has enforced on her and live freely like a raging thunderstorm. In the last lines, the daughter pleads again to her mother to let her live a very different life from the mother’s and to let her go and enjoy freedom.
To Mother S. Usha Summary: Question and Answers
Q: What does the word “Sunlight” Stand for in the poem and why the daughter is telling her mother to not to spread her saree?
A: In the poem “To Mother” written by Kannada poet S. Usha and published in Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry, the word “Sunlight” refers to the daughter’s freedom which her mother is snatching away from her by spreading her saree across the sky. The metaphor “Don’t cut off the sunlight with your saree spread across the sky” have been used with the metaphor “green leaves” which have been used to refer to the mother’s cutting off the daughter’s freedom. That is why the daughter is telling her mother to not to spread her saree across the sky.
Q: What’s the attitude of the daughter towards her mother?
A: In the poem “To Mother” written by Kannada poet S. Usha, the conversation between a mother and daughter can be clearly portrayed in which the most of the behaviour of the daughter is revolting against her mother. The mother has tried to force every rule that was imposed on her by her mother on the daughter whereas the daughter wants to be set free and live her life comfortably according to her own rules. From the events described in the poem, we can say that the daughter is brave, revolting, and knows about the wrong traditions present in the society.
Q: Do you think the mother is purposely being unfair towards her daughter and the daughter by using the words, “Let go, make way.” trying to address her mother? If yes, then tell why.
A: In S. Usha’s poem “To Mother,” a daughter can be seen pleading to her mother to not control her life. The mother is not purposely being unfair to her daughter to wants to enjoy freedom but is naturally playing the same tune, telling her the same rules that the mother’s mother abide on her. She does not want her daughter to flash clothes in the public or to talk to a male directly, these were the features of traditional Indian society which were forced on the mother and she was unknowingly forcing on her daughter.
Yes, by using the words “Let go, make way” the daughter is trying to address her mother and to warn her to let her live freely according to her own rules. This can be proved by taking the example of the warning that the daughter gives to her mother by saying that she is just spreading her hood and will stop anybody who comes in her way of freedom.