01 January 1970

Professor 'V': A Poem For A Teacher

Weekend Reads

Professor 'V': A Poem For A Teacher

Shantashree Mohanty writes a poem for Outlook expressing her gratitude to the English professor who inspired her to read poetry.

Rack Railway Tracks to Mount Rigi, Swiss Alps, Canton of Lucerne, Switzerland
Rack Railway Tracks to Mount Rigi, Swiss Alps, Canton of Lucerne, Switzerland Getty Images

In the summer of 09
amidst slagheaps of academic sermons
I had just about begun
remembering dreadful details
of a childhood trauma,
far dissociated from and vaguely obscured.
And the horror of it all
was seemingly juxtaposed,
against diminishing self-belief
mapped out all over
a below average report card.

Between whirring eyes and quick tongues,
it was slowly becoming the year of
agnosticism and the proclivity to fence-sit.
Friendships were winding up
And romance was unravelling faster
than the climax of a shoddy who-dun-it.

The exasperating competition
and hostile condescension
of intermediate college,
largely betokened an impending doom;
But one fine morning,
like an unsuspecting saviour
Professor “V” walked into our,
AP English class room.

While speaking of Larkin and Auden
the professor would explain amongst other things,
that poetry is the unkempt
path to your soul
stripped by shade,
piercing strands of
light turned inward
unlocking mysteries big and small.

Unbeknownst to all,
his infectious charm and gentle nudge
propelled my lonely heart
into the magical depth of words.
Thus began an era of mindful healing
and self-reflective musings;
pain and shame poured out in verses
like the re-settlement of migrated birds.

I wanted to show these scribblings to him
I wanted to say ‘Please proof-read these gently’
but first apprehensions
and then time got the best of me.
Until abruptly,
a few years later
an old college-mate
in a fleeting conversation
spoke about his passing…
the burdens of unexpressed gratitude
will forever be,
linger on in the poems of Dickinson and Henley
but his teachings
will continue to transcend me
up until the final bells ring.

(Shantashree Mohanty is a writer, mother and legal professional)