Left is also right!

In our world, being a part of a minority group, any minority, is always extremely challenging.

It brings with itself very systemic issues of acknowledgement, acceptance and inclusivity.
Almost always. For example – ethnic minorities, religion driven minorities, etc.

Today I am going to talk about a minority group that I belong to, in a world which has merely 10%-15% of people like me.  I am talking about a minority group which consists of Bill Gates, Leonardo da Vinci, Amitabh Bachchan, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Barack Obama! Any guesses?

Well, I am referring to the left handers of the world, the group of people for whom left is not
right and right is wrong. It may amuse a few as to why this is a topic for discussion in a TED
talk. You will get to know as I proceed.

Before I start, we need to address an extremely important question…

What makes a person left- handed? And why is it so rare? Clare Porac, a professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University who studies handedness, explained that there are two alleles (uh-leels), or two manifestations of a gene at the same genetic location, that are related with handedness; the D gene and the C gene. Now the D gene promotes right handedness; but the presence of the C gene means that one can be either right- handed or left- handed; there exists a 50% chance for each. As you would have figured out by now, the D gene is more commonly found in the population and is more likely to occur as part of the genetic heritage of an individual. The genetic position that controls hand preference of a person contains an allele from each parent, and there are 3 possible
genetic combinations. Individuals who are DD are strongly right-handed, DC individuals are also mostly right-handed, and CC individuals are either right-handed or left-handed.

Now that we know about the true cause of why people have different hand preferences, let’s
go into the actual problem here.

So, seemingly a non-issue for 85 to 90% of world’s population, left handers do not exactly
have a joy ride. Just to share a few situations, many school desks are made only keeping in mind the right
handers, these desks have an arm rest/ writing pad convenient only for the right handers. The
regular stationery one gets like scissors, pens, and even rulers are suitable for right handers
only. Just think about it. Our script (in most languages) is written from left to right. Try writing in
your notebook from right to left with your right hand. It is quite difficult!
Many left handers adapt to using right- handed products in their own unique way. For
example, almost all scissors are made for right- handed people. Therefore, a left- handed
person would have to hold scissors like this.  Even after adapting to using right- handed scissors, a dangerous long- term effect on the hand would ensue. This has already happened to professional hairstylist Simran Singh, according to the economic times.

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As one grows older and finds their ways of dealing with the world meant for the right, including learning to write in a way that the ink does not smudge, unfortunately, there are numerous more challenges waiting to be embraced.

Due to the rarity of left- handed people, numerous cultures around the world believed that people who prefer their left hand were dirty, gross, and evil. Even after the scientific explanations, many cultures continue to hate left- handed people. For example, a little boy from Rajasthan was forced to use his right hand in school; but because he could not, he was continuously punished and finally removed from the school! Only because he was a left- handed person!

Back home, talking about my experience of being a left hander, I would like to share a rather amusing incident that happened with me. A priest who was invited to perform a puja at our home, requested all of us to offer flowers to deities from our right hand. When I used my left hand instead, he objected and next I heard a logic defying argument that offerings to God has to be using right hand and left hand is quote unquote, un- auspicious. This was followed by a mini lecture (even my parents were not spared) on how I should try and use my right hand as it is a bad omen to be left hander, something like a troll. Needless to mention that I am keenly
observed by the same priest with extreme curiosity and apprehension whenever he pays visit
to us.

My parents were sternly advised to forcibly change my natural inclination of using my left hand. Grateful I am that better senses prevailed, and they let me grow naturally. It is important that way because being a left hander or a right hander is not a matter of choice but according to the dominance of brain.

While I was researching on this topic, I found out that in India, conventional families reject girls to be their daughters in law if they are left- handed! Girls are made to cook using right hand as their predominant hand, even if it isn’t. If we start to go to the roots of our country, I am sure we will find many such bizarre superstitions attached to a left hander.

Being a left- handed is not a disability, dysfunction, nor does it require a special treatment anywhere. This is not a story of inequality or a fight for rights. This is the story of lack of awareness. This is the story of social and mental prejudices. What needs to be done is to counter the rampant practices associated with the left handers being a taboo. What is needed… is only a little bit of empathy and acknowledgement in using one’s left hand as their
predominant one.

After all, Left is also Right!

(PS: I came on a Youth TedTalk 3 years back and spoke about this but want it to be read by more and more people)


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