Guest poem submitted by Neha Kumar:
(Poem #579) The Professor
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. By God's grace, all my children Are well settled in life. One is Sales Manager, One is Bank Manager, Both have cars. Other also doing well, though not so well. Every family must have black sheep. Sarala and Tarala are married, Their husbands are very nice boys. 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. 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. 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. This is because of sound habits in youth. How is your health keeping? Nicely? I am happy for that. This year I am sixty-nine and hope to score a century. You were so thin, like stick, Now you are man of weight and consequence. That is good joke. If you are coming again this side by chance, Visit please my humble residence also. I am living just on opposite house's backside.
As in the last Ezekiel poem , most of you will note the predominant usage of 'Indian English', and the following extended quote says much about how he came to write this way: N.E.: "It all started as a comment by a friend who said that you write in English no doubt and you write English well but you don't seem to even know or realise that thousands of Indians speak what can only be called Indian English, because you only meet people who are learning English Literature. So I said yes, it's true I have never thought in terms of writing what you call Indian English. I have just thought it was bad English or wrong English and ignored it. He said no, no, no, you must listen to it. So from that time in all my train journeys from Mithibai College back home, I began to take some interest in the way English was being spoken on the train. Every time I heard an obvious Indian English phrase like, "I'm not knowing only", I would take it down. When I had about a thousand of these, I thought now is the time to create a character, who will speak Indian English from beginning to end. A situation has to be created, you have to think of all those things. So several hours would pass before finally the poem would begin and perhaps come to an end. Then it had to be revised and cut down and the emphasis would be on the Indian English that the character speaks. So naturally one wouldn't write a hundred Indian English poems either so if I would total them up, they would come to about six or seven. I think or maybe ten perhaps." In this poem in particular he describes a conversation between a professor and a student of his whom he is meeting after a long time. The setting is such that the poet is seemingly effortlessly able to describe this very typical conversation between student and teacher in the Indian English he is so famous for. To an aged man in his late sixties, retired, these are the things that matter - sons that are doing well, the one that isn't! Daughters married and well-settled. Grandchildren. There's the typical health talk of how he's doing well and is spared from the most typical ailments of blood pressure, diabetes etc. Then there is mention of the times that are a-changing, simply a must when it comes to this age group of 'retired intellectuals'. The generation gap is also kind of indicated by the difference in the number of 'issues' (I've never heard that term used anyplace else!). It didn't have to be a professor as the subject of this poem, and perhaps that had something to do with Ezekiel's having been an (English) professor himself. (Though I can only guess about that!) As far as the theme of the poem goes, there is clearly a coming together of the old and the new. The style with which Ezekiel describes this, however, leaves a far greater impact on the reader's mind than the content itself. The choice of the rhyming names 'Sarala and Tarala', of the respectable, well-paying managerial positions... As simple an addition as 'Both have cars' goes a long way towards expressing the mentality of the professor, quite a typically Indian mentality for his age and position in society. Also note how the only questions he asks are how many children his student has and how his health is keeping! And I just love the way he cracks the joke about being thin vs. weight :), then adding "That is good joke." :) :) About the language and the terms used, Ezekiel is been excessively generous with his use of the present continuous, but that is his style of using Indian English in his poetry. As is the complete omission of articles... also mentioned in the commentary to 'The Patriot' . But Thomas wrote in such detail about his style, I guess I can omit that bit here. Neha.  poem #516