Less than 50 Shades of Grey

Everyone knows college is for obtaining knowledge which you will never use in your life again. But once in a while, reading a text book can give you an insight into a short story you have read a long time ago. So keep calm and do your readings.

Once upon a time, there lived a little girl in Kolkata (a city in eastern India) who loved to read Satyajit Ray. Yes, the same Satyajit Ray who is known to the world as a film director was also a prolific writer. On a hot summer afternoon, she read the short story “Bornandho”. It has also been published in English as “Shades of Grey” (a long time before E.L James added that ignominious 50 to it). To be prosaically brief, it is about an passionate painter who suddenly sees everything in grey which rings a knell for his career .

When the little girl grew up, she learned about color blindness in little Punnett’s squares. She learned that color blind people have trouble distinguishing red and green hues but no book ever said anything about life turning grey. Eventually, the Shades of grey  became a background noise to be ignored and immersed in a sea of genetics.

10 years later, the girl came across a term “achromatopsia” in Neuroscience 5th ed by Purves et.al. The shades of grey was a mystery no longer. The painter acquired cerebral achromatopsia. This is a condition caused by damage to the occipital cortex and doesn’t involve the retina like regular color blindness. Suddenly the vibrant colorful world of an artist goes drab and lifeless. The only silver lining in this story of a cursed artist? Satyajit Ray decided not to give him prosopagnosia or the inability to recognize face; another disease closely associated with cerebral achromatopsia.

If you want more information on color blindness check out Oliver Sack’s ‘Island of Color blind’. I am yet to read that so don’t blame me if you don’t like it :p


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