Home Literature The Professor by Nissim Ezekiel Summary

The Professor by Nissim Ezekiel Summary

by Litinbox

‘The Professor’ is a satirical poem by Nissim Ezekiel written in Dramatic Monologue. The retired professor Seth was once the professor of Geography who meets his student and the conversation between these two is the whole poem.

Nissim Ezekiel is one of the popular writers of India. He is an important literary figure in post-independence India. Because of his contribution to Indian literature in English, he is known as “father of post-independence Indian verse in English.” His best known poems include ‘Night of the Scorpion‘, ‘Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa T.S.’, ‘The Patriot’, ‘Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher’, ‘Jewish Wedding in Bombay’ and so on.

The Professor by Nissim Ezekiel Summary

Remember me? I am Professor Sheth.

Once I taught you geography…

The poem starts with a question “Remember me?”. The question is unusual as it is from a professor, not from the student. It’s strange that the student is unable to remember him while the professor still remembers his student. It seems there is no reply from the student. So, he introduces himself that he is the professor Seth once taught him Geography.

I am retired, though my health is good.

(….) One is Sales Manager,

One is Bank Manager….

Every family must have black sheep.

The professor in these lines describes about his health and family. His health is good, but his wife died a few years back. He is happy that all his children are well-settled by God’s grace. One is employed as a Sales Manager and the other is a Bank Manager and both own a car each. The professor calls the third son as ‘Black Sheep’ who is doing well but not so well as he expected.

Sarala and Tarala are married….

…. I am going out rarely, now and then

Then he goes on to describe his daughters. Sarala and Tarala are his two daughters. Both are married to very nice boys. He happily shares with his student that he has eleven grandchildren. Then he inquires his student how many issues (children) he has. The student probably answers that he has three issues. Then the professor goes on to advise on family planning. The progress is in hand only when we are ready to adopt with inevitable new customs and values which the world brings in.

….But my health is O.K….

I am living just on opposite house’s backside.

The professor describes his health. At sixty-nine, he is free from diabetes, blood pressure, heart attack and other ailments of vulnerable old age. All because of his sound habits in his youth. He asks his student about his health condition. He jokes at his student that he was so thin like a stick but now he has become a man of weight and consequence. He leaves requesting him to visit him when he has a chance to come again that side.

The Language

The language of the poem is interesting because it seems to be mocking the Indian English at that time in a similar way his another ‘Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa T.S.’ does. It uses everyday, conversational and colloquial language, that makes it sound natural and realistic.

If you read between lines, you will sense the longing of old age people who lead mundane life suffering solitude. The professor voluntarily comes forward to speak to his student though this student doesn’t remember him. A professor may have taught thousands of students in his lifetime. It’s less possible to remember a student who studied under him long ago. At the same time, it’s not clear if the professor is talking to the right person or mistakenly talking a wrong one.

The poem can be seen in another perspective. The professor in his old age leads a mundane life. He experiences the pain of solitude and seeks for a good company. It’s this quest for companionship makes him willing to interact with anyone whom he encounters.

Literary Devices

There’s no specific line length, meter or rhyme scheme in the poem, and the language is simple in this poem. But, the poem utilised various poetic devices to enhance its quality. Let’s see some important devices employed in the poem:


Simile is a popular literary device which compares two unrelated things using the words “as” and “like”. In this poem, the professor compares his student’s physique in the past. Years back his student was very thin and the professor compares him to a stick.

  • You were so thin, like stick….


Metaphor compares two unrelated things typically saying something is something else. Or comparison of something to something else.

  • Now you are man of weight and consequence

This line metaphorically suggests that the listener has become both fat and high in social status.


Some specific lines in the poem reveal subtle irony in this poem. Irony is a popular literary technique in which the language generally signifies the opposite to what one expects to be. It is sometimes used to create a humorous effect.

  • Our progress is progressing
  • Everything is happening with leaps and bounds,

If you look at these lines, these reflect that the professor wishes to be modern and progressive while his position is almost the same like before and holding on to the traditional views.


There is a gentle humour in this poem. The lines like “….That is good joke” and the mention of having “eleven grandchildren” express humour in a matter-of-fact way.

  • You won’t believe but I have eleven grandchildren.
  • Now you are man of weight and consequence./ That is good joke.