About the poet- Robin S Ngangom
Robin Singh Ngangom is a bilingual poet from Manipur, who writes both in English and Meitei or Meeteilon. He was awarded Katha Award for Translation in 1999. Some of his publications are Words and the Silence (1988), Time’s Crossroads (1994), Time’s Crossroads (1998), The Desire of Roots (2006), etc. Robin S Ngangom describes his poetry as “mostly autobiographical, written with the hope of enthusing readers with my communal or carnal life — the life of a politically-discriminated-against, historically-overlooked individual from the nook of a third world country”. His “The Strange Affair of Robin Gnangom” is one of his best political poems. However, Robin S Ngangom’s “A poem for Mother” is an autobiographical poem and free from political implication.
The theme of “A poem for Mother” by Robin S Ngangom is the poet’s poignant expression of his love for his mother. It is an autobiographical poem where the poet shows his gratitude for her unconditional love and lifelong toil.
Summary and analysis – A poem for Mother by Robin S Ngamgom
Before he starts the poem “A poem for Mother” the poet pays his tribute to Salvatore Quasimodo, a Sicilian novelist, and poet.
The poet’s Personality
“A poem for Mother” begins with the poet’s address to Palem Apokpi, his mother. He tells his readers that his mother has given birth to such a son who hated to leave home ten years ago. The poet says that he is still her shy son who has a ravenous appetite.
‘Palem Apokpi’ is in Meeteilon, a predominant language in Manipur, it is the name of his mother. It has been ten years since he left home and his village. Now he has grown up. From the opening lines of the poem, we come to know about the personality of the poet. He used to be very shy and he affirms his mother that he has not changed a bit. He is still the same boy with an insatiable appetite.
Nostalgic about the poet’s childhood
The poet Robin S Ngangom tells his mother that he is the same boy who emptied her larder for which he lost many teeth. He is also her dreamy-eyed boy. During his boyhood when he wore half-pants, he had a thirst for romance for every girl he liked and this rendered his mother trouble during his schooldays
The poet becomes nostalgic about his fond childhood memories. The reference to his childhood is another instance of autobiographical elements in the poem. In his childhood, he was a naughty boy. As a young boy, he could not resist the temptation of biscuits, sweets, or other food items that his mother used to keep in the larder.
No matter how mischievous he was, he is the apple of her eye whose thirst for romance gave his mother a tough time. His romance in his boyhood was an infatuation with the girls. The reason for causing trouble is not given in the poem, however, he might mean that he might have done something childish or stupid to make his mother feel ashamed.
Regret in him
He recalls his mother’s advice to her children that money and time do not grow on trees, both are precious, so they must learn how to use it. He regrets that he could not follow her advice. The reason is not that he has forgotten what she taught him though he has abandoned doing most of them and he left a trace of his existence in the memories of others.
Like most mothers, his mother gave him wisdom so that he could implement in his life and life a better life. Failing to implement her advice could suggest his present state of living; he might be running out of both money and time.
The lines “I abandoned much and left/so little of myself for others/ to remember me.” could suggest his sense of losing the bond with his village. Since he had to leave his home and village and he had to turn his back on his friends or other villagers. As we know Robin S Ngangom teaches at North-Eastern Hill University. It could be possible that because of his job, he is not in contact with others in the village. He has left little impression of him in their memories to remind him.
The poet’s mother’s personality
The poet’s mother works industriously and takes care of each one in the family. This is a common picture that we see in every home mother labor selflessly. Aged husband could refer to his aged father and unmarried sons refer to him and his brothers as got to know from the line “You told your children”. Liberated daughters-in-law could suggest the women who are married but don’t do household chores because of their job. They are different from traditional women who work at home.
His mother kept worrying about them, her worry could not let her smile, wrinkles start to appear on her face and first “signs of snow” appear on her hair. Snow suggests white hair which means the poet’s mother is aging.
Recalling his mother
He knows his mother just like everyday must have left the bed with the chime of temple bells before dawn and swept the floors and after her bath cooked for them. She returns from the market in every dusk and her head is heavily loaded with baskets. He poses a question if she toiled forever.
This is the daily routine of his mother: rising early in the morning, taking birth, cooking for the family. Moreover, she goes to the market and returns home with heavy baskets lately in the evening.
Repentance in the poet
The poet Robin S Ngangom is feeling sorry for not able to inherit the stability she holds in her works or learning from her cooking skills. He stands nowhere in front of his mother. He means that he is not as good as his mother in terms of cooking. He asks for forgiveness for failing to fulfill all her peaceful dreams during her remaining days, he might have suggested to serving his mother in her old days. He has become a very small human being with small dreams and insignificant life.
The poet refers himself a small man, this could be because his worldly achievement is insignificant in front of his mother’s greatness, her lifelong toil to her family; he is a just a mere man. The selfless dedication of his mother in raising the son and serving her family is indeed greater than the son’s achievement in life.
Structure of A Poem for Mother
The poem “A poem for Mother” by Robin S Ngangom has five stanzas and it is written in free verse.
The poem “A poem for Mother” by Robin S Ngangomis filled with autobiographical elements. The poignant tone of the poem makes it an emotive poem.
- Subramaniam, Arundhathi. “Robin S Ngangom”, Poetry International. https://www.poetryinternational.org/pi/poet/11771/Robin-Ngangom/en/tile.
- “A Poem for Mother by Robin S Ngangom”, Poetry at Sangamhouse, http://poetry.sangamhouse.org/2018/09/a%C2%A0poem%C2%A0for-mother-by-robin-s-ngangom/