Here's what's left
On World Left Hander's Day, we meet a cross-section of people to understand what it means to constitute 10 per cent of the human population
The first time that Sandeip Vishnoi remembers facing any prejudice for being left-handed was when there was a puja in his home when he was little. He had been entrusted with the job of serving food after the religious ceremony was done with. But when he offered it to the pandit who had been invited, the man bluntly refused, saying he couldn't accept it since the hand that Vishnoi was using was "achhut".
That's the sort of peculiar perception that Indians, over the years, have had about left-handed people. So much so, that everyone from parents to teachers have been known to force a child to use the right hand despite it being unnatural for them. Vishnoi tells us about his daughter, who is left-handed, too. He says, "She's in class 6 and once took part in a craft competition at school. Scissors are normally meant for right-handed people. So being a leftie, she found it difficult to work with the one that she was given, and the teacher told her to leave the group."
The question then is why we, as a society, view left-handed people as "different" when it's not a choice that they are born with. It starts from the womb. Various factors including genes and the mother's age are believed to be the key determinants. So when a baby is born, its automatic instinct is to pick up things with its left hand or use it to eat food. And yet, prejudice often rears its ugly head when it comes to how such people are viewed.
Dipti Abhyankar and Sandeip Vishnoi
Take 30-year-old economist Dipti Abhyankar, who suffered an experience similar to Vishnoi's in her childhood. She tells us, "I was fortunate enough to have supportive parents. But I remember that I had once received prasad at a temple with my left hand, and that's the only time I was scolded for it."
Vedanshi Sachde and her three-year-old daughter Aarvi
She adds that there are other problems she faces that are structural in nature, one of which has to do with kitchen appliances. Like scissors, these are usually built for right-handed people. "I still face difficulties when I am peeling a cucumber or potato. It's an everyday issue."
Then there's the fact that she plays the violin. For, musical instruments are also normally geared for right-handers. "My instructor was worried when my instinct was to use the left hand for the bow, which is not how a violin is usually played. But I managed fine and, with time, learnt to play the instrument with my right hand as well," Abhyankar shares.
So the point here is that there is really no reason why southpaws should be viewed with a lens that's any different. In fact, it can even be an advantage at times. Boxers, for instance, find it easier to disarm their opponent, while bowling to a left-handed batsman unsettles the plans of the fielding side in cricket. So, sports is an area where it can definitely give people an upper hand.
And all the people we spoke to also told us that perceptions are starting to change for the better with time. "I feel that in urban India, it's sometimes even considered elegant to be a left-hander," Vishnoi, who started the Ahmedabad-based Indian Left Hander Club, says, adding that people like him are thought to be more creative since the right-hand side of their brain — which fuels alternative thinking — is more dominant than the left.
Then there's Mulund resident Vedanshi Sachde, an example of a modern parent who has none of the baggage that people have been known to carry about left-handed children.
"My mother-in-law is left-handed and it was very different in her generation. But I feel that being right-handed or left-handed doesn't matter at all. So I was okay when I realised that my daughter, Aarvi, is left-handed. It doesn't change anything in her life or mine. The only thing is that when I sleep next to her at night, I have to be to her left. And that's because she uses her left hand to hold my fingers."
Did you know?
> Vishnoi tells us that he started the World Famous Left Handers Museum (in pic, left) in Goa last year, with the blessings of Ratan Tata, who is also left-handed. It contains statues of 100 famous southpaws, starting from Steve Jobs to Mary Kom, and is purportedly the only such museum in the world.
> Some people are ambidextrous, like Sachin Tendulkar (extreme left), who bats right-handed and writes with his left hand. But Vishnoi points out that such people are often born left-handed, and then learn to use their right hand for tasks because of societal diktats.
Aditya Roy Kapur
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