By Sharukh Vazifdar
As the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body, only left-handers are in their right minds! exploring the psyche of this unseen minority
Around seven years ago my right hand started paining for no apparent reason. No matter how much rest I gave it, the pain did not abate. Out of a lack of options I started using my left hand. It started out with brushing my teeth, then shaving and finally onto eating. At first, all the muscles seemed asleep, and it took a lot of effort to get them to move in the right way. I can’t remember when the pain in my right hand disapp eared, but soon I had mastered doing these everyday tasks with my left hand. I grew up right-handed but today I can use the mouse better with my left hand. Over the years my right hand has ‘forgotten’ how to brush teeth! Other than writing – which requires tremendous control and practice – I can do almost every task with either hand. I remember trying to write with my left hand; the muscles felt so disturbed that I threw the pen across the room; I haven’t tried it since.
A good friend of mine found this habit very unhygienic. “How can you eat with your left hand?” she asks. In India, the left hand is used to clean one’s lower extremities, and hence considered dirty. Another old dogma that has no sane reasoning whatsoever! Just a psychological stigma that narrows the mind. Recently, my mother was diagnosed with a tennis elbow and was to rest the right hand as much as possible, to regain its strength. She turned to me for tips on how to go about it. It was a case of there being nothing right in the left hand, and nothing left in the right hand.
Are you right-brained?
Most of us on the spiritual path, proudly call ourselves right-brainers, operating from the subtler and abstract regions of the brain. Look again, the real right-brainers are the lefties. They have much better developed right hemispheres. Though, this might not necessarily make a left-hander creative, imaginative or spatially cognitive, since the motor and creative areas lie in different regions of the brain.
Some famous left-handers include Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Beethoven, Henry Ford, Helen Keller, Dr Albert Schweitzer, Lewis Carroll, H G Wells, Michelangelo, Amitabh Bachchan, and Albert Einstein. Excelling in every field, lefties aren’t such a dull lot after all!
A right-handed world
Preyank Sheth, a leftie, says, “I stand out a lot because I use the opposite hand. Right from my early schooldays I got questioning stares and glances. I also have to deal with adjusting to right-handed engineering equipment. However, there are advantages; arm-wrestling matches are quite easy for me, as most people’s left hand is weaker than their right. All in all, it pays to be different.”
If you notice, everything around us is made for right-handers. From door handles to bathroom taps to scissors to keyboards to fountain pens, we live in a right-handed world. And for good reason too, statistics show that only around 13 per cent of the global population is left-handed, and a similar fraction in India too. Left-handers might not face as serious a situation as the blind or disabled, but don’t they deserve to have considerations for their way as well? For most of us right-handers turning a door handle isn’t a cause for concern, but try using your left hand. It doesn’t feel natural. Try cutting a piece of paper with scissors using your left hand; it’s not your fault that the paper doesn’t cut, just folds. The blades on scissors are made for a right-handed person, and can’t cut when operated by the left hand. I tried this quite a few times before I read about it on the internet. Try uncorking a bottle or using a screwdriver with your left hand. It won’t work because the spiral threads are clockwise, and can only be worked in one direction. My left hand leads at the dining table, and I find the fork and spoon are not in the right positions; I also have to reach out across the plate for a sip of water. At work, my computer is rarely used by anyone other than me as the mouse is on the left side and the pointer is an arrow leaning towards the right instead of the usual left – quite flustering to use for a right-hander.
Says Bipin Chaugule of the Left Handers Association, Pune, “Unfortunately, we do not yet have a store in India that caters to the needs of left-handed people. Items such as scissors, pens, peelers and notebooks can be customised to suit us. We do not want special considerations as that would make us feel handicapped; but adjustment of workplaces to suit us, especially equipment and machinery would definitely help.” The association is spreading awareness about left-handedness in schools and organisations such as Lions Club and Rotary Club. They also are helping many students in their doctorate thesis on handedness.
Initially, ‘handedness’ was considered the attribute of only a few animals such as chimps and horses, but research shows that cats too have preferences about their paws. A female cat is more likely to be right-handed, and males left-handed. If you have a pet at home, offer him/her some food in a jar and see which paw they use to fish it out.
Balancing your hands
Although left-handers are at par or even better than right-handers in almost every field, people hold baseless notions and socio-cultural prejudices against this minority. The use of the left hand is not allowed, in many cases forcibly, so that an age-old belief is upheld. Many a time people don’t accept money when I offer it with my left hand, and I face similar resistance when performing any religious duty as well. Isn’t it time we rid ourselves of this ridiculous discrimination?
In the quest for balance, it would be foolhardy to disregard the use of the not-so-dextrous hand, be it the right or left. We have been given two identical hands, both equally capable of doing what’s necessary. Immaterial of what our beliefs are, how public opinion may frown upon it or the effort required, it makes sense to try to develop both our hands to similar levels. Why not make them both Jacks of all trades, and the master of some? Does any of this sound right to you?
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• Fold your arms across your chest. Which hand is on top?
• Clasp your palms together, interlocking your fingers. Which thumb is uppermost?
• Fixate a small distant object with your eyes and point to it with your forefinger. Now close one eye and look at it, then try the other eye. Which eye was open when the finger remained in line with the object?
• Cup your ear to listen to a distant sound. Which ear do you cup?
• Tilt your head over to one side, which side is it?
• Clasp your hands behind your back, which hand is doing the holding?
• Start clapping, which is the upper hand?
• Try scratching the centre of your back, which hand do you use?
You might find that the answer isn’t always left or right, we tend to use both hands.