OPN Left handed person
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“Is there something that troubles you but your elders think it’s irrelevant? Let’s write it all down.” Thus began one of my writing exercises in a primary class and a reply that I received, scrawled on an index card by a nine-year old boy, Nitin, surprised me.

“Being a lefty is not easy. My parents force me to use my right hand because they think the left hand is ‘dirty’. Also, I have problems reading the clock and tying my laces. I am scolded for my bad handwriting because I cannot write if I keep my notebook straight, but Miss Soares doesn’t understand. She hates my writing and me.” (a sad emoji was the concluding graphic)

Well, it took me some time to process the whole thing till I realised what seemed to be a non-issue for the world could be a grave irritant for this little one. I made up my mind to speak to Nitin and his parents about the ‘anomaly’ named left-handedness, treated like an affliction which needs to be cured.

Tina, my friend is thus “afflicted” so is 10-12% of the world. She had difficulty using scissors in the art/craft classes, when in school. She’s now an accomplished cartoonist. Tina was born in an orthodox Indian family where being left-handed was treated like a stigma. Fortunately, her mother stood by her, she would encourage Tina by giving her examples of Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso, both left-handed painters, magnificent artists!

Also, she told me how King George VI of the royal family of England was born left-handed but was made to write with his right hand at school, which was later the cause of his stutter. The Latin word ‘sinistra’ originally meant ‘left’ but took on an evil meaning in the classical Latin era.

Looked upon as oddities

Left hand writers were thought to be possessed by the devil. The English word ‘left’ comes from the old English word lyft meaning idle, scrawny or inept. The French word for ‘left’ is gauche also meaning gawky and awkward. Thus, lefties were often ridiculed and looked upon as oddities.

To encourage Nitin and his parents, I list the number of famous people, from different fields of life, who are/were left-handed like Bill Gates, who said, “There’s a little bit of higher variance of talent, high and low, for left-handers. But it’s never been explained.” This would include entrepreneurs like Amar Bose, the founder of Bose, and Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, are left-handed, as was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Charlie Chaplin was a lefty; he played the violin very well too. As most things are engineered to suit right-handed people, Chaplin had the strings on his violin reversed. Gordon Ramsay, the famous chef, slices, dices and cooks with his left hand, which is quite a challenge again, because cooking tools are often designed for righties.

To further reiterate the coolness of being a lefty to Nitin’s parents, I inform with a flourish that Rajnikanth the famous South Indian actor too is one. Their faces miraculously brighten up, beaming from end to end.

They may be called ‘southpaws’ or ‘cack-handed’ but research from the University of Toledo, Ohio suggests that “left-handed people are better at remembering because the right and left hemispheres of their brains are more closely connected”. They are more ruled by the right-hand side of the brain which is linked to increased creativity, divergent thinking and imagination.

An inspector who had walked into my creative writing class, was bent on knowing how we dealt with left-handedness, at the kindergarten level. It made me ponder about the matter too. We still need to work on having a more ‘left-friendly’ pedagogy.

I’m in awe of my brilliant and talented lefty friends; I couldn’t agree more with what one of them has pinned on her wall- “God made few people perfect, the rest were right-handed.”

Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Gurgaon, India Twitter: @VpNavanita