Publish with us

Follow Penguin

Follow Penguinsters

Follow Hind Pocket Books

The Diagnosis: An Extract from ‘Lights Out’ by L. Subramani

The doctor stares down at me with a bright instrument strapped to his forehead. He asks me to keep my eyes open, but the beam of light hitting my eyes hurt and pierces my pupils with the force of a bullet. I gasp. The examination is an unending torture that makes dilation seem like a pin-prick. The pain is continuous, unrelenting, and it almost pushes me to the threshold of tolerance. Just as my head starts to shake in pain and tremendous discomfort, a sharp snap of a switch puts out the source of my agony. A minute of blissful darkness follows, and I take a series of deep breaths to relax my stiff muscles and joints. I find it difficult to get up for a few more minutes, lying on the couch, unable to shrug off the paralysing effect of the examination.
Dr. Rakesh usually smiles when he speaks to me. He asks questions about a thousand trivial things just to divert my mind from the impending pain or the intensity of the test. Why didn’t he try any of these today, I wonder? Even now, as he is looking down at me, there’s no trace of a smile on his face.
‘Do you mind stepping outside for a while?’ I’ve never heard him sound so plain and cold.
‘You mean…outside this room?’
‘Yes. I’d like to have a word with your mother alone.’
The initial confusion gives way to shock and anger. What does this doctor think of me anyway? I’m 15, sport a moustache, and I am perfectly capable of being present in the room to listen to my own diagnosis. I have to blink many times before I can see the door to the waiting hall and pull its handle. The blast of light from the well-lit waiting room is enough to drive back the pain. Eyes firmly shut, I breathe deeply once again to relax my stiffening joints and trembling hands. Thankfully, I don’t spend too much time in finding the nearest chair.
It is almost five in the evening. The perfectly square waiting hall appears smaller, as a stream of patients walk in through the portico and mill around the reception desk to announce their arrival for an appointment. Before my thoughts drift in the direction of the eye problems that has brought so many patients to the clinic, I feel Dr Rakesh’s hand pressing on my shoulder. I tilt my head up to listen to what he has to say. ‘Just the usual tests my boy’, or ‘Nothing to worry about, or ‘Here’s your prescription, now go and get your new glasses,’ might have been nicer to hear.
But instead he asks me, ‘So, ready for school from tomorrow?’
There must be something more than that… I watch his face expectantly.
But the doctor merely pats my shoulder, mumbles a weak ‘good luck’, and walks back into his consultation room. I turn towards mother thinking that she has got a prescription for new glasses. It’s already past five and we must hurry to the optical stores to buy my favourite frame and place the order today. However, one look at her face, and I freeze in cold terror.
She’s crying. Tears stream down her cheeks. She’s crying in the full view of strangers, I realize with shock, something I have never seen her do before. ‘God, Ma! What happened? What did he tell you?’ I ask, unable to control my horror.
I shake her shoulders, ignoring the several heads that have already turned in our direction. ‘What’s happened? What did he say?’
‘He says… Oh god, what will I do?’
‘Ma… Please. Tell me what happened!’
‘He says you’re going blind.’
‘Blind? How? I can see now!’
‘He says you have a condition that will gradually make you go blind,’ she tells in a wheezy whisper, the shiny tears still rolling down her cheeks.
She wipes her eyes with a handkerchief, draws a deep breath, and says, ‘It’s a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. It’ll eventually make you blind.’
It is my turn to take a deep breath. ‘Okay Ma, okay. Let’s find out if there’s a cure for this condition. We can still do something about it,’ I say in a weak, unconvincing voice, and immediately receive the second blow.
‘Cure? No… He says there’s none.’
About the book
Imagine the world around you slowly blinking out, your familiar world disappearing into darkness till you begin to doubt not only the world’s existence but your own as well. In this terrifying blindness can you find the light?
This is L. Subramani’s inspiring story of triumph.
He suffers from Retinis Pigmentosa, a condition causing gradual and incurable blindness, which affects one in three hundred Indians. Lights Out shows with painful clarity the debilitating process of going blind and the agonisingly bewildering effect it had on him. In this unfamiliar and disconcerting situation he battles his disability to strive for normalcy, till he transforms his most crippling weakness into his greatest source of strength.
You could buy the book here:
About the Author
L. Subramani is currently Senior Subeditor with Deccan Herald (The Printers Mysore Ltd) in Bangalore. He was affected with Retinitis Pigmentosa aged 18 and had to experience gradual loss of vision in two years, though the drastic vision reduction happened in a six month period, leaving him totally blind in the end. He is currently involved in setting up a support system for patients having rare disease or who experience progressive or sudden vision loss. He is doing this with the help of fellow RP patients and other social workers. He has pledged a portion of the proceeds of this book to his new initiative.

What Books Have Taught Me


When I received this assignment, I immediately texted my friends asking them about their experience of reading; what have books taught them? I learnt that one of the common feature in each of their experiences was the ability of books to cure the ailment of loneliness. My friends are weird and quirky and it is not easy to be so in a world predominated by normalcy. Reading books written by unconventional authors with even more unconventional characters, one stops feeling outlandish.
Being a socially awkward child I formed an immediate relationship with books.. I remember my mother giving me books- Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven, Malory Towers, St. Claires, The Faraway Tree Series, The Five-Find outers. I remember gobbling up each book and asking my mother for more.
There is only so much that someone or something can teach you. The best thing about books is that they don’t coerce you into believing something. They work their way through suggestion.
Books weren’t my best friends back then because they never listened. They spoke to me and I listened. I think I preferred it that way. Listening means calming the hurricanes inside your mind and that is exactly how books helped me. Books also taught me how to speak. They equipped me with the power of words. I learnt how to use big phony words to satisfy my teachers in school. Like teachers, books taught me that it is futile to have a colossal lexicon at your disposal when you are going to utilize it to speak the same insipid insignificant rubbish everyone else speaks. Use words that are at your disposal wisely. Do not abuse them. Do not overuse them.
Junot Diaz brought me up close and personal with language. I learnt not to shun the colloquial for the fancy because the colloquial is real. There is too much artificiality in this world. To drag language through the same rut would be wrong. Steig Larsson taught me to be unbiased and not to conform to the norms of society.
Reading is sometimes reduced to a very boring exercise of reaching the last page. Some literature-elitists want you to have read certain books or you’re out of the clique – whatever clique you were or weren’t part of! The point is every book has something different to teach every person. The most picked-on book like, ‘The Twilight’ might have helped someone in ways we couldn’t have. In the exercise of defining the canon and deciding which books are passé and which ones are in vogue, we are missing out on one important thing: reading.
So, Stop judging. Start reading. Start learning.
Credits: Sindhoora Pemmaraju
About Sindhoora
An unabashed bibliophile, Sindhoora is Majoring in English Literature.  She loves literature and music.

You Are What You Read

Every person who loves books has a special space in their home where they build a shrine for all the books they have ever bought. This shrine, in colloquial terms, is known as ‘library’ and commands great respect and devotion from acolytes. One of the universal truths is that you are what you read.
Sometimes when we read books, and in the process, fall in love with them and the people we meet in them, we become one of them. I remember when I first started reading Harry Potter, I couldn’t stop faking a British accent whenever I spoke to my friends in English. I would also frequently use words like ‘blimey’, ‘wicked’, ‘Expecto Patronum’, ‘dementor’, etc when in conversation with ‘muggles’.


 When we read, we start constructing the character we like in our mind, we often tweak them further to suit our palette. At each step of construction, we try to emulate them and become more like them. So deep in the world of books are we that we scarcely care that we are becoming someone else. It is a fun experience to discover traces of our favourite characters within us. But it is also dangerous when inspired by crime novels; some members of our cult go a wee bit crazy. Books like The Collector and The Psychotic have inspired shameful crimes.
People who aren’t really taken with books, undermine their power and their ability to be transformed into dangerous tools. For isn’t that the whole reason why some books are banned? Because they are dangerous and can reveal more than what some people deem it to be acceptable.
Catcher in the Rye was a revelation. It was banned because the government was worried that it would influence teenagers to engage in questionable activities. But Salinger was just capturing what was already happening in the country. He was speaking the truth and he was censored for it. In fact, anybody who has read 1984 would also tell you how powerful literature can be and how its censorship proves it. In fact, in ancient Greece, there was a law which prohibited the utterance of certain select words. If that doesn’t prove how powerful words can be and the obsession of those in power to regulate it, I don’t know what will.

 Books hold more sway over minds than swords or bullets do. And it is for this reason why reading must be exercised with caution and the reader has to learn to be sceptical of the narratorial voice, learn where the narratorial voice ends and the author’s voice seeps in.
Books say a lot about you. The books I have read find their way into me like weeds; I don’t mind them growing on me. I have a little of Junot Diaz’s Lola’s sass in me, Oscar’s otaku-ness; Rowling’s Hermione’s curiosity and Ron’s appetite; Fitzgerald’s Amory’s silliness and so on. Point is, books make you. And you make them what you want them to be.
Credits: Sindhoora Pemmaraju
Sindhoora_Harry Potter 
An unabashed bibliophile, Sindhoora is Majoring in English Literature.  She loves literature and music.

New Year’s special: A reader’s resolutions

The New Year is almost upon us and research tells us that people who make resolutions on New Years’ as opposed to resolutions taken up throughout the year, succeed in keeping them. So let’s get this New Year started with some interesting choice of resolutions for bibliophiles:


1. The Books that Defined the Eras – Books that are legendary don’t only define people, they also revolutionize the time period and the thinking. The Beats in the USA and the Hungryalists in India defined literature and revolutionized it. They lived the words they wrote. My New Year resolution is to plunge myself into these literary movements and read all their work, the whys, the whats and the hows.



2. Cosplay – Cosplay is really cool in general. But in places like India, where cosplay doesn’t happen everywhere across the country and frequently, it would be so much fun to dress up as your favourite fictional character and be them for a day. It would certainly startle some people out, but it would also be so much fun! Imagine dressing up as Hermione Granger or Cho Chang from Harry Potter and screaming Expelliarmus with your wand!




3. The Forbidden – The forbidden is also the most tempting.  This year could be the year for you to read all the banned books, books by exiled authors and controversial books.  There is plenty of fish in the sea, for you to pick and choose the one you want to hook and read.




4. Popular Fiction – Lewis Carroll, in his book, ‘An Experiment in Criticism’, also muses about the blasphemy or the dark aura that literature-elitists have created around the books that constitute the genre of popular fiction. There is always ONE (or more than one) book that EVERY book-lover wants to read but is hesitant to, because the Literature Gods have declared them as blasphemy. But this New Year can be letting go of all the inhibitions and reading what we like and trying to understand the animosity displayed against popular fiction.




5. Audio books – This New Year could be about downloading the ‘discography’ of as many authors and poets as possible. To be able to listen to the works of artists in their voice is a completely different and new experience, everyone must be acquainted with. The way the tenor of the voice drops, picks up, trembles at different places, and completely changes one’s understanding of literary experience. So do not hesitate to listen to audiobooks by writers!




6. Clean the Clutter- Every book-lover has a messy book shelf, they always bookmark for cleaning later. But start this New Year by cleaning the clutter, arrange your books according to colour, or title or author. Or arrange them according to priority and need; place the books you don’t need in your life right now far behind, or in the corner, and keep the ones that cheer you up right in the middle where you can see them.




7. Collect Bookmarks – We might not have any friend writing to us and sending us postcards from exotic places, but books are our exotic places and bookmarks, our postcards. So, collect bookmarks like post cards to boast about the places you’ve been to in books.




8. Read a Book A Week – Reading a book a day is not only ambitious but also the whole exercise of reading is rendered futile because we’re hardly learning anything as we are more worried about sticking to our timeline. Reading a book a week is much more productive and relaxing – pick up any book of your choice and start reading it. Don’t stick to one genre. Explore more. Read stuff that you’ve avoided all these years, the books that make you cringe and the books that make you judge others. Read everything, read a book a week, read leisurely.




9. Join a Book Club – Join a book club! For what? Well, I don’t know. And that is exactly what we have to find out. What really happens in book clubs? Do people just sit around and discuss books? Just imagine coming up with insane new theories about books you’ve read, with people pitching in. Imagine arranging for cosplay events, poetry and other fun literary events, with these people.  Book clubs can be your own literary haven, away from the overrated normal non-readers’ world.




10. Write – Almost every obsessive reader writes. Promise yourself this New Year, to write something new or old every day. Put up sticky notes everywhere to remind yourself, write everyday about everything; the bug bites and the cold. Accompany your writing with a lot of reading and before you know it, you might even end up compiling a book!




Happy 2020, readers! 🙂

error: Content is protected !!