K in post offices awaiting mail from their

K Sachidanandan is an Indian poet,
play wright and translator writing in Malayalam and English. He is one of the
major figures in modern poetry in Malayalam. The translation of Sachidandan’s
poetry in most Indian languages and several world languages have earned him
admires from across the world. The poem ‘Old women’ was taken from the
‘Anthology of  Contemporary
Indian poetry’.       

OLD WOMEN by K. Satchidanandan

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Old women do not fly on magic wands

or make obscure prophecies

from ominous forests.

They just sit on vacant park benches

in the quiet evenings

calling doves by their names

charming them with grains of maize.


Or, trembling like waves

they stand in endless queues in

government hospitals

or settle like sterile clouds

in post offices awaiting mail

from their sons abroad,

long ago dead.


They whisper like a drizzle

as they roam the streets

with a lost gaze as though

something they had thrown up

had never returned to earth.


They shiver like December nights

in their dreamless sleep

on shop verandahs.


There are swings still

in their half-blind eyes,

lilies and Christmases

in their failing memory.

There is one folktale

for each wrinkle on their skin.

Their drooping breasts

yet have milk enough to feed

three generations

who would never care for it.


All dawns pass

leaving them in the dark.

They do not fear death,

they died long ago.


Old women once

were continents.

They had deep woods in them,

lakes, mountains, volcanoes even,

even raging gulfs.

When the earth was in heat

they melted, shrank,

leaving only their maps.

You can fold them

and keep them handy :

who knows, they might help you find

your way home.


The poem old women deals with the
social problems such as individual alienation in old age in modern society. The
poem begins with the description old women in tales that they fly on magic
wands and make obscure prophesies by living in dangerous forest. Speaker says
that it is not the real portrayal of old women. Then he talks about the reality
of an old woman. Speaker says that we can find them in ‘vacant park benches in
the evening’. They will be there by feeding the doves.  They don’t have their own place to go and they don’t have anyone in their life. They are totally abandoned and they trying to
get pleasure by feeding the doves by calling their names.

     Then the speaker talks about another place
which we can find old women, that is ‘endless queues in government hospital’.
They are in hospital because they have their unhealthy cause of the old age.
Standing in the endless queues denoting that they dont have a support from
their family and they facing economical problem too that is why they standing
in the queues of government hospital. Poet compares their movement with waves.
These all shows physical and mental unhealthy of old aged people.

 Another place we can find the old women is
post office. They are in waiting for the mail from the sons abroad, they dead
long ago. But still they are waiting even though they do not getting the reply
from the son they continuing their expectation. Old women hopes to find some
support from their children. Again the poet used simile to express the
condition of an old age that ‘settle like sterile clouds’ which stands for present condition of the old women as unusual. Now they
became nothing, they don’t have anything now.

    Then the poet describes about features of
old women. They talk in slow voice, here poet compare with their whisper like
drizzle. Next line of the poem indicates that they were totally neglected and
now they are roaming in street ‘with a lost gaze’, still they waiting likes ‘something they had thrown up had never
return to earth. In their thoughts they wish to go back to their past. Now
everyone left them, now they are alone.

     Next stanza talks about their pathetic
condition. ‘They shiver like December nights’ it is because of their age issue and they sleep on shop verandas. In this
age they need more safety and securities but they didn’t. They have to sleep in the room of the house, now their ‘dreamless’ sleep on shop verandas. They sleep
became dreamless as like their life. For them everything is over, not only
their bodies but also the mind became age older. Because of the alienation
which was facing by them from the society and the family.

      Memories of the celebration like ‘lilies and Christmases’ still swings in their ‘half blinded eyes’. It indicates their good times with their family. This line shows the
lives of old a person with despairingly and also old women has her family on
her mind all the time. The words like half-blinded eyes and falling memories
display’s images of old age. Their body was full of wrinkles and
every wrinkle says about old age wisdom and lot of experience. Still they had
the ability to rise three generation, but now they are not care with their abilities
or their bodies.

     When the support of the family was ended,
at that time they died internally. Now they don’t have the fear for death. The light of their life is gone already by
leaving them into dark. They became isolated from world. Here two opposite of
ideas like dark and light brought poetic effect to the poem. 

      Poet says that once old women were
continents. He used metaphor to say that once she had everything and she
sacrificed that for the others. Their capacity was melted because of the ‘heat’ of their responsibility and affection
towards the family. Now she was weak and tired but she still has a wealth of
experience. Poet gives an advice that ‘you can fold them’ they are the maps. The maps symbolize the experience old women. With that
knowledge and wisdom they can find the right path for your life. They can give
proper guidance in life through their vast experience. 










 ‘Sachidanandante Lokangal’. Matrubumi Books, 2006. Print.

‘Anthology of Contemporary
Indian Poetry’.
Penguin, 2000. Print.








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