Maa by Zaib un Nissa Hamidullah: Summary and Analysis

Read our complete notes below on the story Maa by Zaib un Nissa Hamidullah. Our notes cover the introduction, summary, characters, themes, and analysis of this short story.

Maa Introduction:

The story deals with the universally acclaimed concept of motherly love. Mother is a universal symbol of love and writer has shown that the western conception of life has deteriorating status of being unaware of the real worth of love. The writer states that eastern culture is much keener towards the essence of motherly love where mother stands as the cure of every ailment.

Maa Summary:

Billo- the pet name of the unnamed protagonist of the story is born to a poor village family. He is brought up in a village environment with creeping poverty around every corner of the house. He is married to a village and wife and then sent abroad for education. He is sent money and all what the family could afford to make him a successful gentleman.

He returns from abroad and has fully wrapped himself in the western way of living. The standard he sets for his life is fully western having not a tinge for eastern way of life. He is now ashamed of his village identity and does not want to live in such a backward place where life is hundreds of years backwards. He abhors this place because of the lack of modernity and lack of facilities. He thinks that this place is not suitable for him. He leaves village, parents and his village identity forever; goes to city and gets marries to a modern and young city girl.

For years have passed but has abandoned every one of his past. Now he is an aged man and seriously ill. The family considers him nearing the death. He is aware that his young wife does not care about his death because she wants his death as all the property will be transferred to her. She from her behavior and attitude testifies this as well.

The man is about to die and is in full agony. The wife is not concerned about him. He in his delirious conditions repeatedly calls Maa. He is unaware but the calling is constant. His wife gives him sleeping pills but his situation gets out of control and the calling is not stopped. The wife gets angry when he calls out his mother every time. His son take pity on him and hurries to village to fetch his grandmother to his ailing father. He reaches village and asks his grandmother to come with him. His mother forgets every pain that she has endured because of his son and comes with her grandson. She reaches there but she starts feeling embarrassed because of the luxury life his son lives and her own poor ways of life. But this feeling is soon gone when she listens to the cries of her son. She is taken to the room where her son is lying ill. She sits beside him. He continuously calls the word Maa and she replies with one word Billo- his childhood pet name. For a longer time this continues. This conversation seems meaningless to the surrounding people but the impact is miraculous.

The next morning when the doctor visits him, he is found totally well. When his mother enters his room, he is found talking in a loving tone to his wife who had not even taken a bit of care of him. He is unaware of his mother and tells his wife that because of her love she has trespassed all the obstacles in the past and now this ailment. His son tells him about the presence of grandmother. He meets her unkindly because he feels ashamed of the outlook of his mother. His mother feels that she is superfluous and not needed any more. So she decides to go back to village for which his son happily agrees. She goes back to village but with the stronger instinct that her son remembers her and she is the one who brought her back to life.

Maa Themes:

Motherly love:

The love of mother is a universal phenomenon and is akin to every individual around the globe. Motherly love is the major theme of this short story. The author has given the message whatever happens, mother never lets her children suffer. Children do everything to get rid of their traditional mothers but they get to know the real worth of mother. As poet Tabish puts it;

Aik MUddat Se Meri MAA Nahi Soyi Tabish,

May Ne Ik Bar Kaha Tha Mujhe Dar Lagta Hy.

Modernity, A Curse:

The second theme of this short story is that we must not get indulged into the modernist concept of life where life is hollow; the feelings, emotions and family has no real existence. The author had given a good comparison of both the societies; one with the modernist perspective and the other with its cultural domination. Modernist society ultimately falls because it lacks the human qualities.

Maa Characters:

The Man:

Billo is the eldest son to a village family who lives in a poorly conditions. He is brought up in such a situation and married to a village girl. He then goes abroad for education. When he returns his life style has totally changed. He now is embarrasses of his village life style, wife, children, and parents. He leaves them all and marries to a modern lady in city. He forgets his past and get indulged in a life. The wife is superficially good to him but is interested in his property.  He gets ill and unconsciously calls for his mother but his wife does not approve of his mother to come. But his son brings his grandmother from village. She spends three nights with him and talks to him when he is unconsciously calling MAA. The next morning, he gets alright miraculously. But he thinks that he has recovered because of his wife. He showers his love once again on his indifferent wife. His mother is welcomed unkindly and she decides to go back. The person is shown to be a fool in hands of her wife and on a larger scale, he shown to be the victim of western style of living which is hollow.


The character of mother is binding force of the story. Her son abandons him but she is mother who forgets all the bad her son has done to her and rushes to see her son when she gets the news of her son being ill. The writer has shown the full panorama of eastern mother with all her loving composure. Mother is every part of the world is who can sacrifice everything for the children and compromises at every step for the happiness of her children. In the story she is shown to be the same mother with all her motherly bliss for strayed son.


The wife is shown to be the embodiment of modern greed of money. She lacks the humane qualities and has married an elder man than herself for the sake of property. She shows that she is a good wife but the reality is contrary. She keeps herself away from his mother so that he does not get well and dies. Because after his death the property was to be transferred to her.

Maa Analysis:

  • The story shows the contrast of the both western and eastern societies.
  • The western society is the society with all this scientific advancement and luxuries of life but the real essence of humanity is not in existence. While the eastern society with all its so called stereotypical backwardness is a society with the true essence of humanity.
  • The protagonist after living in western society adopts their ways of life and gets hollow and shallow. While the mother after all the hardships offered by her son is ready to visit his son when he is in ailing condition.
  • Karl Marx says that money forms the superstructure of the society. He also adds that the behavior and attitude of society is molded by money. This is exactly what we see in this short story. Billo lives happily with his family and spouse but when he earn money, his life style changes, he lives his village life and changes his class.
  • This story can be analyzed from another dimension as well; mother could be taken as identity. The wife could be taken as modern symbol of ideology. While the man is the actual culprit who looms in between the modern ideology and identity. He sacrifices his identity for the modern false identity. He somehow manages to realize his fault but the charm of this modernist life has so much engrossed him that choosing the identity becomes impossible.