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Celebrating left-handedness

Today (August 13) being International Left-Handers Day, I paused and pondered over what it means to be a southpaw. Not fitting the right-handed mould, they are considered 'different' and in a strange way become pariahs from the group. I have always done everything, from writing and eating to playing games and ironing, with my left hand. Pallavi Singh writes.

punjab Updated: Aug 13, 2013 09:14 IST
Pallavi Singh

Today (August 13) being International Left-Handers Day, I paused and pondered over what it means to be a southpaw. Not fitting the right-handed mould, they are considered 'different' and in a strange way become pariahs from the group. I have always done everything, from writing and eating to playing games and ironing, with my left hand. I never realised I was different until my kindergarten teacher rapped me on my knuckles and said that I was a child of Satan to be using my 'dirty hand'.


I remember prickling all over in mortification and hiding my hand under the desk in shame. The next thing I knew my furious mother was up in arms and the teacher was severely reprimanded and subjected to a long discourse on left-handedness as genetic make-up and not some choice we have. She was suitably chastened and apologetic!

I was always given the freedom to use my left hand and woe betide anyone trying to wean me off what my parents knew was probably hereditary and biological. The only problem I ever faced as a lefty was in school, while seated on a tightly packed dining table where my left arm and my neighbour's right were constantly knocking and colliding into one another. Sensibly, I usually sat at the outer edge of the table!

About 10% to 12% of the world's population is left-handed, which does make us a minority. 'Sinistra', Latin for the word 'left' (also meaning unlucky), we are easily labelled as kin of the devil. Along with that ignominy, we southpaws have trouble opening doors, using scissors, guitars, spiral notebooks, surgical instruments and hockey sticks. Handling the computer mouse and keyboard is a major challenge for us. Can openers and other kitchen instruments confound us. With the world designed for the right-handed majority, we rue the fact a study has put forth, that on an average, we have a life span nine years less than our right-handed counterparts.

Be that as it may, the flip side to this morbid prophecy is another study which claims that we lefties are more intelligent, creative and possibly earn more than the rest of the right-handed world. Five of the last seven US Presidents have been left-handed. Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all favoured the left hand. So did four of the five original designers of the Macintosh computer. Research has shown that left-handed people have the advantage of surprise in combat. Boxers speak of the powerful 'left hook' which often takes the opponent by surprise. Legendary boxers like Rocky Balboa and Oscar De la Hoya are famous lefties.

Research has shown that southpaws are faster at processing multiple stimuli than righties and may even have comparatively better mental faculties as they age. For every Fidel Castro, Adolf Hitler, Jack the Ripper and the Boston Strangler, all infamous lefties, we have Alexander the Great, Prince Charles, Helen Keller, Michelangelo, Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Amitabh Bachchan, Angelina Jolie and Jimmy Connors, to name a few. So this International Left-Handers Day, let us join hands and celebrate our Right to be Left!