Thursday, October 06, 2005

It doesn't matter who we are, what matters is what we do - An inspiring stuff

Below is the story of a friend of mine, Subramani. He has surmountedall odds to work with Deccan Herald as a journo. He is very comfy withPC's and Tech stuff . He is as normal as we are except that he isblind. An avid tennis fan, here is how he recognised various shotsbeing played on the court ..

"Reporting on sports, particularly on tennis is quite easy, because, youcan hear the ball bouncing on both sides of the court and the chairumpire would tell the score. With the help of my fellow journalists likeK. Srinivasa Raghavan, tennis correspondent, The New Indian Express, Iwould decipher the shot that was played and record it in the palm-sizetape recorder. I would later listen to it and type my reports. If I cansay so, I was the first visually challenged sports journalist at that time."

Hold your breadth, he learnt to speak Japanese while working inChennai. Well, read on .....!!!
My name is L. Subramani, I was born in Salem (Tamil Nadu) and livedthe best part of my 32 years (dob: 06-07-1973) in Chennai. I belong tothe Brahmin community.
I had myopia from the age of five and was testing to change thespectacles in 1988, when my ophthalmologist told my parents I have RP,an eye condition that would lead to blindness. Though the doctorbelieved blindness may occur later in my life, it happenedsurprisingly early: two years after diagnosis.

I was doing higher secondary schooling and as my sight deteriorated, Iwondered how possibly I can complete the schooling. As it was toolate, government education department rejected my plea to have ascribe and so, I had to write the final school exams on my own. To mydisbelief, I secured 64 percent, for exams I wrote as half-blind.

My parents were devastated and thought life was over for me, evenbefore it started. Some relatives suggested I must stay at home andpursue my degree through distance education, which I rejected.

My mother N. Vijayalakshmi supported my idea of going to college andexplained about my problem to various college principals and requestedthem to admit me in the college. Her efforts paid off, as LoyolaCollege was ready to admit me in 1991. The college was where Icompleted my BA and MA. During my stay in the college, I met wonderfulfriends; some of them continue to be very close pals even today. Myfriends, Ashwin Chand, K C Vijayakumar and a few others, use to cycledown to my house and record all the study materials for me. ReadersAssociation for the Blind, an informal NGO comprising of educatedhouse wives in Chennai, lead by Mrs. Neela Ananthachary, also chippedin with reading assistance and acting as scribes for me and 30 othervisually challenged students of my college.

It was during the college days, I took interest in journalism, as Ienjoyed interacting with people and found knowing about theminteresting. I should mention thanks to my personal interactions withseveral people early on in my life as a visually challenged person, Icould learn ways of tackling my problems.

Even before I lost my sight, sports events used to interest me a lot.I particularly loved watching tennis and as I was losing my sight, Isaw the Wimbledon finals between Edberg and Becker and struggledsubsequently with enormous pain in my eyes. And, at the end of thematch, I used to write down my observations, with inadequatevocabulary and flawed grammar. Little did I realise that was what Iwould end up doing (I think with much improved grammar and vocabulary).

After college, I tried hard to pursue higher studies abroad. But moneyand inadequate academic records (thanks to my blindness) were hugestumbling blocks. That was when my friends suggested to apply for a PGDiploma course in Journalism and I promptly did.
The course led me to The New Indian Express, where I joined as atrainee for three months. I wrote my first article in 1998 and feltthrilled, when well wishers told me I have a promising career ahead.It also answered my critics at home, who didn't believe I can ever doanything close to that.

Journalism was quite challenging, as I felt it hard to use computers,despite knowing the keyboard operations, thanks to my brother L.Prakash. JAWS (a software fir the blind to use computers) wasexpensive and I had no choice but to learn to work on the PC withoutit. Surprisingly, apart from things like spell checking, I managedeverything without the speech software.

But, employing me full time was a decision the newspaper managementwas finding it hard to take, as they weren't fully convinced.Understandably, some higher-level managers raised questions about howindependently I could work. So, I had to continue my career onfreelance basis. I found newspapers encouraging and had mentors likeK. S. Latha, former Economic Times editor, who helped me hone myskills as a writer.

This was when an offer to join Chennai Online came, which I grabbedwith both hands. It was quite interesting, as I started writing onsports. I covered several matches for them, including twointernational tennis events (the Gold Flake Open, which subsequentlybecame Tata Open). I had more exposure and quite liked what I did.

Reporting on sports, particularly on tennis is quite easy, because,you can hear the ball bouncing on both sides of the court and thechair umpire would tell the score. With the help of my fellowjournalists like K. Srinivasa Raghavan, tennis correspondent, The NewIndian Express, I would decipher the shot that was played and recordit in the palm-size tape recorder. I would later listen to it and typemy reports. If I can say so, I was the first visually challengedsports journalist at that time.

I left Chennai online, after the dotcom burst and worked as a languageconsultant (effectively a technical writer) with a company calledSofil Information Systems, where I reviewed technical documentstranslated from Japanese.

The director of the company once called me and told me to teachEnglish for seven of our Japanese staff. I found it exciting, as, withno common medium of instruction, I had to explain most of the thingsto them by gestures. But, I couldn't believe myself, as in threemonths time, I learnt to speak Japanese. Today, my spoken Japaneselanguage level is quite comparable with anyone who can handle thelanguage, though I am yet to master the script.

During my stint with the software company, I continued to report ontennis tournaments for Chennai online on freelance basis andcontributed to famous dailies like The Hindu (metro plus supplement).When I decided to get back to mainstream journalism in 2003, Iresigned from Sofil and kept myself busy contributing for newspapersin Bangalore as well. This was the time, when I also did research workfor the memoirs of film actress Padmini.

In the same year, I was called for an interview at Deccan Herald andmy esteemed editor Mr. Shanth Kumar understood my condition and waswilling to give me an opportunity. A great feeling of triumph filledmy heart, as I could convince editor of a famous daily on my skills. From April 2004, I work in Deccan Herald, concentrating on editing andwriting assignments. I write on several topics, including ondisability affair. Sports, alas, isn't an option I have explored so far.
On the question of JAWS, I can afford it now, as my brother L.Prakash, went to work in Japan and bought that for me. My visualstatus is nothing more than total blindness.

The list of people I had interviewed includes:
Film Stars Kamalhassan, Vikram, Surya, director Manirathnam, Dharani,music directors Bharadwaj, Harris Jayaraj, Hamsalekha, Gurukiran,Vidyasagar, tennis stars Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathy, Magnus Norman(former world no 4), Sjeng Schalken (present world no 20), ParadornSrichaphan (world no 12), Karol Kucera (former world no 6), GuillermoCanas (former world no 10) and Sania Mirza (who was a junior player in2000). (and the list isn't complete).


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