A little girl tries to cut paper along a straight line, yet her cutting is rather uneven. She fails to understand why the task that appears to be so easy to her friends and peers can emerge so Herculean for her. The result of her efforts is low grades in arts and craft class; the effect is being branded as clumsy and the reason is ……she is left-handed.
Most left-handers know the agony of trying to peel fruits and vegetables, struggling with right-handed computer mice or typewriters. From the very start, left-handed people, popularly called “lefties”, have had to adjust to a world where they are in minority. Right is generally considered to be the “proper way of life” all over the world, with “left” taking up negative connotations. The impact of this association of left with the abnormal, and in some countries even evil, can be seen in many languages for example the word sinister which is derived from Latin word “sinistra” means left. Moreover, the word for right in Latin is “dexter”, which also is used for meaning useful and able. Apart from Latin; German, Spanish, Chinese (mandarin) and Hungarian also have synonymous words for left handed and wrong or clumsy.
Even in India, parents feel worried if their children show a preference to perform any activity with their left hand, whether it be writing or eating. Many even today try to exorcise “leftism” out of their child at an age in which they are too young to protest, fight back or struggle. What people need to realize instead is that being left handed is not abnormal and is surely not an ailment!
The scientific explanation claims that the human brain can be segregated into two parts –left and right, Generally, left side which is responsible for all the motor activities is predominant over the right side which is responsible for the ability to speak languages. In case of lefties, the right is predominant over the left. This factor is not just true for the brain, it holds good for our entire body. Our body is said to be never completely symmetrical such as the left and right side of the face may vary. Like other parts of the body, the predominance of the left over the right side of the brain generally leads to the right side of the body being more able to work. For those who prefer to use their left hand, it is assumed that their right brain is predominant over the left side. This occurrence must be extremely rare due to which only a mere 8% of the population is left handed on an average. This further leads to the debate whether those who are left handed, are truly more aesthetically and creatively gifted than their right-handed counterparts. Many of the painters, musicians, actors and artists established as geniuses in their field have been left handed such as Da Vinci and Michelangelo, Newton and Einstein, Beethoven and even Charlie Chaplin. In more recent times, Bob Dylan or Sachin Tendulkar, is a feather to the crown already sitting pretty on the left-handers’ own little club.
Being left-handed is also considered to be an advantage when it comes to playing sports. While some sports require separate equipments such as shooting certain rifles, or even golf or field hockey, there are sports like boxing or tennis where left-handedness is often a blessing. A living example of this is Rafael Nadal who plays with his left hand so as to win him the advantage of confusing his opponent. In boxing, those who use their left hands are referred to as “southpaws”.
Not merely sports where certain games can not be played by southpaws with the ease flaunted by right-handers, even daily life can often discriminate against the left handed. While discrimination does not equate to denial of rights in this case, but it sufficiently refers to facing and living each day in a right-biased world. Whether it be spiral pads which pinches your hands with every movement, or computer mice, ink pens or right side desks, cameras with the button on the right or simple scissors or gardening tools, generally lefties have to always handle unfavourable solutions. They have to strive to survive and to prove Darwin wrong almost all the time. In fact most lefties become adept at handling right-handed products. Only recently, various countries like US have acknowledged the different needs of lefties and have come up with shops that supply goods especially for left-handed people.
In India, even now being left-handed can trigger off severe fear or prejudice. Most educated people may not be openly prejudiced anymore but they would nevertheless treat the discomfited victim with amusement. Thus, the embarrassed “wrong hand user” is often asked questions like “why do you write with your wrong hand”? The term “right” is said to be a synonym of “correct”. In politics, the opposing party is termed as “leftist party”. Even when people are clumsy in dancing, they are colloquially said to possess two left feet!
While the world may discriminate against left handed, the lefties consider themselves to be members of a select club of talented and gifted lot. However, Science is yet to derive a connection between superior talents and being left handed. Till then, August 13 continues to be world left-hander’s day and is perhaps the one-day on which all left handed people can come together and celebrate their uniqueness. It is the day to realize all the little things that make them everyday fighters and survivors and contend that life cannot be that bad with the good company they enjoy. After all, even Michelangelo and Einstein did not have it easy in their lifetime.