August 13 is celebrated worldwide as the International Lefthanders’ Day. Why do lefties get a day to themselves, you ask? Because your friendly, neighbourhood average left-hander – who makes up 11% of the world’s population by the way – has to battle every day discrimination.
Let’s admit this: right-handers have the world handed to them on a platter. But despite proving their mettle in leadership (Gandhi), philosophy (Aristotle), politics (Barack Obama), creative arts (Amitabh Bachchan) and pretty much everything else, the odds are stacked against left-handers. Here’s how:
1. In many Asian cultures, the left hand is thought to be unclean, as it is reserved for ablutions. Travel advisories warn people of the ‘cultural mistake’ of extending their left hand for food or a handshake in South-East Asia or the Middle East. Being left-handed is a taboo in many places and lefties are forced to go against their natural instinct and eat or write with their right hand. Talk about forcing someone’s hand.
2. If you are a lefty, you are likely to find yourself unwittingly embroiled in the ‘great elbow tangle’ – when you sit next to righties and find your elbows have started a war in their fight for space.
3. You know those chairs with desk arms that are the hallmark of every examination centre? Imagine reaching an examination hall in the grip of anxiety, only to find that all the desks cater to right-handed people. Either the teacher scurries to find a regular table for you or you end up reaching halfway across your body to write your paper!
4. Tools are supposed to make your life easier. Right? Right. A pair of scissors, for example, is supposed to be handy if you want to cut stubborn split ends or an old photograph of your ex (a little psycho, but okay). Except, unless you have custom-made lefty scissors , the whole process is awkward and designed to evoke general rage and frustration.
5. Writing is the most basic thing to do. But not if you’re left-handed. You smudge the ink as you go (Unless you are writing in Arabic or Nastaliq, in which case you go right to left and your life is happy and peaceful). Regular pens aren’t your friend and spiral notebooks are like those toxic relatives you should never allow in your lives.
6. All your other problems can be solved with a bit of deft handling (hand-related pun intended, thank you). But what do you do when language itself conspires against you in this underhanded conspiracy? Common phrases are out to demonise lefties. A ‘left-handed compliment’ is an unflattering one. ‘Sinister’, which now means evil, originally meant left-handed in Latin. So did ‘gauche’, which now refers to a socially awkward person. In contrast, ‘adroit’ or ‘dexterous’, which imply skillfulness, both derive their origin from the right side. When you think of all this, the only leftie phrase that comes to mind is the classic Hindi retort: Ulte haath ka thappad!
From HT Brunch, August 14, 2016
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