The Professor by Nissim Ezekiel is a satirical poem written in the form of a conversation between a professor and his student. A satire is way of criticizing a person, an idea or something where the poet uses humour to point out their faults and weaknesses. Here, the professor makes fun of himself by the way he speaks or thinks. A professor is someone who should be proper in his subject or the medium he teaches. But the professor in The Professor is caricatured because of his erroneous dialect. A Professor can also be called a monologue because one can find that the professor speaks but listener does not say a word. The poem is composed in Indian English and the poet mocks Indians who finds prestigious to speak in English, even when they are not so good in it, rather than in their mother tongue.
POEM IN DETAIL:
(Lines1-11) The poem, The Professor begins with a question, ‘Remember me?’. The question is from a retired Geography professor to one of his former student. He then introduces himself as Professor Sheth who had once taught Geography to that student. Then he describes his current position, his family and his health. He tells him that his wife has passed away few years back and by God’s will, all his children ‘are well settled in life.’ He also mentions that one of his sons is a Bank Manager and another is a Sales Manager. To describe their social and financial condition, the retired professor says they both own cars. Then he mentions about his third son whom he considers as the black sheep of the family.
(Lines 12-21) The professor then talks about his daughters, Sarala and Tarala. He says that they both are married and leading a happy life. His son-in-laws ‘are very nice boys.’ The professor then proudly tells his student that he has eleven grandchildren. He even asks his student how many issues he has. The student probably says three when the professor says people are going in for family planning these days which is good.
The professor keeps on talking. He talks about the changing times and the importance of change. He talks about how the whole world is changing along with India. He then talks about the change in values. Old values are been replaced by new values.
(Lines 22-36) The professor now talks a bit about himself. He says that he hardly go out because of his old age. Then he says his ‘health is O.K’ but he does have usual aches and pains. He is not suffering from diabetes, blood pressure or heart disease. He says proudly that he is healthy because of the good habits that he has cultivated from his youth.
He even enquires about his student’s health and is happy when he comes to know that the student is in good health. The professor reveals his age, he says that he is sixty nine and hopes to live for a hundred years. He jokes with his student that the latter was like a stick earlier but now he has gained weight and become a ‘man of weight and consequence.’ Finally, the professor asks him to pay a visit to his home if he ever comes near to his dwelling place.
ABOUT THE POET:
Nissim Ezekiel (14 December 1924- 9 January 2004) was an Indian Jewish poet, playwright, editor, art critic. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award for his Poetry collection, ‘Latter-Day Psalms.’