Summary of The Professor by Nissim Ezekiel

The Professor by Nissim Ezekiel: About the poem

The Professor by Nissim Ezekiel is particularly remarkable for its depiction of Indianness in a satirical tone.

The poem is written in very simple language and in prose-poem style. No particular metre or rhyme scheme has been followed in writing the poem The Professor.

The poem The Professor can be classified as a dramatic monologue. In its abrupt beginning, one-way conversation and the presence of a silent listener, The Professor qualifies the basic requirements of a monologue.

The Professor: Line by line Explanation

Remember me? I am Professor Sheth.
Once I taught you geography. Now
I am retired, though my health is good.
My wife died some years back.

The poem begins with the professor’s question: “Remember me?” Then he himself gives the identity that he is Professor Sheth. It is clear from his speech that he is talking to one of his past students whom he taught geography. He goes on to tell his student that he is now retired but his health is still good at this age. He also mentions that his wife is no more.

By God’s grace, all my children
Are well settled in life.
One is Sales Manager,
One is Bank Manager,
Both have cars.

The professor is thankful to God that all his children are well-established in their life. One of his sons is a Bank Manager, and another one is a Sales Manager. Both his sons own cars.

Other also doing well, though not so well.
Every family must have black sheep.

He now talks about his third son who is not doing so well as the other two. He regards him as the ‘black sheep’ of the family. “Black sheep” here means that the son is probably immoral, unprofessional and somewhat reckless. Even then, the professor protects his son by saying that every family generally has such a member.

Sarala and Tarala are married,
Their husbands are very nice boys.

Now it is his daughters’ turn. Professor Sheth says that his two daughters Sarala and Tarala are married to good husbands. They are ‘very nice boys’ according to him.

You won’t believe but I have eleven grandchildren.
How many issues you have? Three?
That is good. These are days of family planning.
I am not against. We have to change with times.

The professor also proudly declares the unbelievable fact that he has eleven grandchildren. And for the first time, he now gives his student a chance to speak. He asks his student how many issues he has. It seems that the professor is mocking at his student on hearing that he has only three children. He also assures his student that this is not so bad. Nowadays people are more conscious about family planning. And he is not against family planning. He accepts the change that time brings.

Whole world is changing. In India also
We are keeping up. Our progress is progressing.
Old values are going, new values are coming.
Everything is happening with leaps and bounds.

The professor now speaks of the changes that the whole world is facing. He feels that the Indians are also keeping up with the change. We are progressing with time. Old conceptions are going and new ideas are coming. Everything is changing at a fast pace.

I am going out rarely, now and then
Only, this is price of old age
But my health is O.K. Usual aches and pains.
No diabetes, no blood pressure, no heart attack.

Now the professor says that he rarely goes out, as he is a retire person. This is also due to the old age that he can no longer walk or travel much. But he is proud that he is keeping good health with only occasional aches and pain. He has no diabetes, no blood pressure, and no heart attack.

This is because of sound habits in youth.
How is your health keeping?
Nicely? I am happy for that.

The professor continues to speak of his health. He is still keeping his good health because of his good habits in youth. He then asks the student about his health and he is happy to hear that he is keeping it up well.

This year I am sixty-nine
and hope to score a century.

Mr. Sheth then talks about his age. He is sixty-nine years old now, and hope to live for a hundred years.

You were so thin, like stick,
Now you are man of weight and consequence.
That is good joke.

Now, the professor reminds the student that he was so thin, comparing him to a stick. But now he (the student) has gained some weight and power. The professor perhaps indicates the social position of the student, as well as his physical growth. And he also mentions that it is a good joke, in case the student doesn’t get it properly.

If you are coming again this side by chance,
Visit please my humble residence also.
I am living just on opposite house’s backside.

In these lines the professor requests his student to visit his residence if he comes this way again in future. He also tries to point out the location of his house, that is, the back side of the house on the opposite side of the road.

Suggested: Indianness revealed in this poem of Nissim Ezekiel

[Now I want to know if you have another explanation for a line. I would really appreciate your thoughts on this. Please do leave a comment in the below field.]

This Post Has 39 Comments

  1. This poem gives a slight indication that the professor doesn’t exactly have a strong grammar game. You can point out ‘many’ grammatical mistakes, even though one could understand what the professor is trying to say.

    I know for a fact that the poet does not write in the way that the professor had, in this poem. So, is it like the poet is mocking or trying making fun of an Indian individual’s English? The writer himself is an Indian, so I don’t understand why exactly he is trying to mock his fellow countrymen internationally, even though the professor is a fictional character. Being an Indian, I take offense.

  2. What is the message conveyed by the poet through this poem or what is the main theme explored in it?

  3. can u tell me how the poem portrays that aged people only require a receptive listener

  4. I would not like to mimic him or tease him as even with his broken english , he has managed to become ” a professor” ..thanks a lot !! It is of great help!!

  5. 1. The professor surely jests that he has no blood pressure as no human or animal can survive without blood pressure.
    2. While mocking at the student for having only 3 children, he also is not against the family planning. He appears to be contradicting himself.

    The summary is really helpful for investigating each and every hidden meaning in the poem, which gives a clear appreciation of the poem.

    1. Thank you Lemony for the appreciation and additions. Anyway, ‘blood pressure’ here refers to the common problem of high blood pressure that most Indians are having at his age. This indicates the way the Indians talk about it and how they feel themselves blessed not having such an issue that the others are suffering from.

  6. The poem also has a subtle humour in it which is not easy to find out.he talks about family planning but he himself have 11 grand children and he also makes many grammatical error.

  7. Hey jayanta can u pls tell me the meaning of “opposite house’s backside”…thnx

  8. I have a question, is Professor Sheth reluctant to adhere to the ‘new’ Indian customs ? It seems as if he wants to follow the old tradition even though it is not mentioned.

    Anyway thanks for the summary

    1. A slight inclination to adhere to the customs of his time is quite natural for every human being. But the professor is not prejudiced in that respect, as he says in line 17 ‘I am not against. We have to change with times.’

  9. Thanks a lot it helps me in my exams. I like this poem very much.
    I just want to know the full name of the professer.

    1. The Professor’s full name is not mentioned in the poem. Just know it as Professor Seth.

  10. Thanks. Appreciable and a very useful source for my revision for ICSE board exams

  11. Stereotyped Indians-
    Comparing owning of cars with wealth and stability in life;
    We, as a cricket loving nation (and hope to score a century)
    The Professor also says a lot of statements that are contradictory to his own
    Rhyming Names of children (Sarala Tarala)
    This is a satrical monologue

  12. There are lots of mistakes.
    ‘Once i taught you geography’ means the professor only taught his student once and not twice. And many other

    1. Hi Subhojit! Thanks for your comment, but I think here ‘once’ means once upon a time. Moreover, things are open to different analysis, when it comes to art and literature. So this is not really a ‘mistake’.
      Still, I would like to know some of your analysis as I have already stated at the end of the post.
      Our readers will be benefited more if you kindly provide your explanations.

  13. If u r coming——opposite house’s backside- this shows the lonliness of the professor.
    Visit please my humble residence also- the word humble shows the way the indians speak. Even if they are very rich and have good money ,they dont show it

  14. This has saved me about one of my teacher.. it’s helpful, could understand the style and the poem clearly… thank you very much. it’s high time for success

  15. I am retired…good-typical trait of an Indian speaker-rambling nature

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