A few days ago I saw someone writing with her left hand and had a sudden thought – “What a lucky woman!”
Let me explain.
I am a left hander, though you’d probably not know it if you were to watch me doing anything. That’s because I am one of the very, very large number of Indians who were forced by their parents to use their right hands in childhood.
The figures are clear: while about 10-12% of Westerners are left-handed, the figures in India are somewhere below 5% - and even that, I am convinced, is an exaggeration. Now, there is no significant reason why – genetically speaking – Indians should have a third the number of lefties as, say, Americans. But there are other reasons, and they have everything to do with systematic and pervasive anti-left hander discrimination.
I am, as it happens, completely right-brained. I’ve never been able to see the famous spinning woman figure turn anticlockwise, which is how a left-brained (and hence right-handed) person sees her. I’m psychologically right-brained too. I’m (as you all know) creative. I see, as my Significant Other can attest, the Big Picture. I have no mechanical aptitude. And I’m clumsy.
I am clumsy, of course, because my subordinate left brain is being compelled to control my body, which it isn’t suited for. I’m functionally crippled in that respect, and all because my parents felt that having a left-handed child would be a social embarrassment. (They weren’t shy about telling me about this; they were proud. It was an achievement.)
Something they had in common with a lot of other Indian parents.
The anti-leftie attitude in India is as baffling as it’s extreme; and though weakening slowly in recent days, it’s still pervasive. That’s even more ridiculous when you realise that left handers are more creative and more imaginative than right-handers – a natural consequence of our right-brain dominance. And compelling us to use our right hands doesn’t turn out brains around, either.
Some years ago, I read an article which detailed some of the horror stories many other Indians went through at the hands of their parents. I remember one woman who said she had been forced to sit on her left hand while writing so she’d be forced to use her right; To this day, she said, and she was in her forties, she could only write if she sat on her left hand. Another person was burned on his left hand whenever his parents caught him using it – burned with a hot iron. What kind of barbarity is this?
Can you understand now why I thought that woman allowed to grow up as a leftie was lucky?
Actually, it’s never completely possible to convert a left-handed person into a right-hander. I used to shoot left-handed; I do a lot of things the way a left-hander would do them, and instinctively. That was until fairly recently.
Recently, I decided to reclaim my left-handed birthright. In other words, I decided to train myself to be left-handed again.
It’s a work in progress.
Some things have come easy. Eating with my left hand is no problem. Nor is using my left hand for tasks like using my cell-phone. I suspect that writing will forever be beyond my left hand’s capabilities, but what with computer keyboards I don’t write that much anyway anymore.
This morning, I achieved a signal step forward. I managed to brush my teeth adequately with my left hand. This isn’t a small thing – proper brushing is a complex procedure. I’m coming along.
But to this day I come across parents scolding their children for using their left hands, and I hope for something.
I hope their children will never forgive them. I didn't forgive mine.