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How is being left-handed not right?

I fail to understand why the left hand is considered so inauspicious although it is very much an important part of our body. Can we imagine a body or life without the left hand? Why can't the use of the left hand be justified the way we use our left eye, left ear or left leg? In fact, the most vital organ — the heart — is also on the left side! Then why this discrimination against left-handedness?

I remember the day when my mother was dumbfounded to see my daughter (who was then around two years old) invariably using her left hand for most of her activities. My poor mother reminisced the days when she struggled to convince the elders of the house that her daughter (myself) was left-handed and that there was nothing opprobrious about it but she failed miserably. She was sternly advised to change my natural inclination to use the left hand and fearing the repercussions of defying them, she coerced me into making me a right-hander. How unfair!

Why is it that the same people who consider using the left hand taboo are diehard fans of left-handers? Whistles blow when Amitabh Bachchan, the famous left-handed superstar, blows up the villain's head by pulling the trigger (of the gun) with his left hand. Every single soul on earth looks up to the man who changed the world — Bill Gates, the left-handed computer geek (the second richest person in the world, 2011).

Can people still believe that the left hand is unlucky or being left-handed is ill-fated? The answer is ‘yes,' as I have observed that whenever my daughter offers gifts or just anything to her friends/relatives with her left hand (as she is a leftie), people instantly say: “Give it with your right hand, not with your left,” and she wonders why this bias? “Why is it wrong to use my left hand, amma,” she asks innocently, now five years old. Little does she know that many people consider it an insult to be offered anything with the left hand.

Why this abhorrence for the left hand? Aren't we all amused by the acts of Charlie Chaplin, the left-handed comedy king, even today? For years together, the world has applauded when Allan Border, Yuvraj Singh, Brian Lara and Sanath Jayasurya hit fours and sixes with their left hands, producing centuries and double centuries; millions of men and women have been bowled over by the overs bowled by the left-handed Wasim Akram, Ravi Shastri, Bruce Reid and Irfan Pathan, who have won crucial matches.

Many right-handed Tennis players have been knocked out by left-handed opponents Martina Navaratilova and Raphael Nadal, to name just two. Apart from these achievers, we remember left-handed scientists like Albert Einstien, Marie Curie (Nobel Prize winner) and Isaac Newton for their invaluable contribution to science. And who has not admired the works of famous artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso or Michael Angelo who have left an ineffaceable impression across the globe. On top of these, we have had great left- handed rulers and leaders, especially Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Rani Laxmibai and U.S .Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Regan and now Barack Obama.

In spite of the fact that left-handers have achieved so much, in India there is a pre-conceived notion that the left hand is inauspicious. I feel that men can still be left-handed but not girls and women as they have to cook and serve food. In some religions, serving food with the left hand is considered a sin. Why this prejudice?

I am combating with my family and the outside world to let my daughter continue being a leftie, because many of the tools, equipment, musical instruments are designed keeping in mind the right-handers causing much discomfort to the left-handed people as in using cameras, computer mouse, guitar, the fridge door, the mixie regulator switch and many more. And not only that when I take my daughter to the temple, her natural tendency to extend her left hand for prasadam earns her only scorn, “Hmmn.., show your right hand.” These are the priest's words, not God's. Even the left-handers are God's creations. I read in a consumer magazine that a team of the Foetal Behaviour Research Centre, U.K, studied the scans of 1,000 foetuses and concluded that handedness develops in the womb when the foetus is just 10 weeks old.

The hand the foetus favours in the womb is the hand he/she will use for the rest of his/her life. But the hardcore fact is that most of the rituals cannot be performed with the left hand, the reason being superstitious sentiments attached to the left hand.

After my hue and cry for the past three years in my family, my daughter has at last been permitted to use her left hand for most of the activities like writing and playing, barring a few like eating and serving. I feel it is very unfair to compel a left-handed child to eat with her right hand as having food is such an important activity of our daily life which is done with our heart and soul, relishing morsel by morsel, but my daughter is pressured and is not able to enjoy her food wholeheartedly. What a punishment for being a left-hander?

A creative lot

It is believed that left-handers are creative and have good linguistic skills as their right brains predominate various abilities in them but in India (especially south India), it will take ages for people to acknowledge these facts and give the left hand its share of due importance and to accept left-handers (especially girls and women) without any inequity.

(deepusekhu@gmail.com)

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 10:53:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/how-is-being-lefthanded-not-right/article3340122.ece

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