Here is one of the sweet memories of the years I spent teaching undergraduates, a poem I wrote in those days. It was lying on my hard disk waiting to see the light of day.
There he stood, fresh and green.
Lanky, awkward, bespectacled,
Licking his lips,
Moustache twitching nervously
Like the whiskers of a rabbit in danger.
His initial joy at being appointed
English lecturer of a women’s college
Already a faded memory
Of a recent past.
The girls stared bright eyed-
Ninety-four of them
Teenagers of various sizes-
Like eagles at a hapless snake,
Like cats at a poor mouse,
One hundred and eighty eight laser beams
Systematically peeled off layers
Of confidence, knowledge, and experience,
Bringing down to zero
The value of awards and certificates
Leaving him afraid, vulnerable, and weak
Armed with only a text book,
A nervous smile and sweaty palms
“Good morning, girls,” he bleated.
“Good morning, Sir,” they roared.
Some grinned, some giggled,
Some tittered, some whispered,
Others waited with sadistic glee
For something worse than the worst.
“Write a note on Love,” he said,
Wiping beads of sweat,
“We are dealing with Shakespeare’s sonnet
On the permanence of Love.”
“Love!” scoffed one, “What is that?”
Voices rose mingled with titters.
They twisted, squirmed and exchanged views
The noise could waken the dead!
“Write in silence!” he cried.
They were unaffected.
Some had no paper, some no pen,
Some didn’t know what Love meant,
Some clamored for discussion and debate,
Some claimed ignorance
Of the written art,
Others downright disobeyed.
“Sir, tell us about Love,” they challenged.
And he, knowing only Shakespeare’s views
And not his own, stammered and stuttered.
When the bell rang, out he tottered
Like a lone lost soul from Dante’s inferno
Alive, unscathed, but strengthened for more.