I Have Something in Common With Obama, Modi, And Tendulkar. But My Grandma Hates it.
With August 13 marking the International Left Handers Day, people are praising famous left-handed people and scientific researches are hailing them as super smart, however things haven't changed much on the home front.
(Image courtesy: Reuters)
My eyes are glued to the television screen as Sanjeev Kapoor croons, “Now we will add some garam masala.” The five-year-old me has been swirling a wooden spoon in brisk circular motions around an empty plate for the past 15 minutes.
From the kitchen, the smell of aloo-gobi wafts into the living room. My mother has added the garam masala and just a hint of aamchoor powder. Food is almost ready. I abandon Sanjeev Kapoor to sit with my grandmother for lunch. I break the roti, take some sabzi and as I bring my hand towards the mouth, my grandmother spanks me and says, “Seedhe haath se khaana khao (Eat food with your right hand)."
I’m stunned. I start to cry. It’s been a rough afternoon for a five-year-old boy. I’ve already left the latest episode of Khaana Khazaana midway to eat lunch. Why couldn't she let me eat in peace?
My mother consoles me and feeds me the bite. Glaring at her mother-in-law she says, “Usko ulte haath se khaane do (Let him eat using his left hand).”
The followed silence is an indicator of my mother’s victory. But my grandmother, who would not let her daughter-in-law run the rules, did not give up on trying to ‘convert’ me for the next 18 years.
Over the years, my grandmother has tried to coerce me into using my right hand for performing my daily chores. Her reason? “Bhagwaan bhi seedhe haath se acche kaam karte hain (Even Gods use their right hand to perform their ‘good’ chores)."
But being the unshakeable left-handed that I am, I never learnt to do the ‘acche kaam’ with my right hand.
There is a certain belief in the Indian culture that the left hand MUST always be used to ‘clean up’ ourselves in the washroom. Growing up, I was bullied by my classmates for being left-handed. They taunted me saying, “You eat and wash up with the same hand.”
At work, things are no different. My computer mouse always kept on my left, miraculously finds itself on the right every morning.
But this isn't limited to our Indian culture. The world of the West was particularly hard on left-handed individuals in the 18th and 19th century, amusingly called the Age of Reason and Enlightenment.
Even in liberal societies of North America and Western Europe deliberate attempts to suppress left-handedness and impose conformity in the education system were endemic during that time. Practices like tying a child’s left hand behind his chair or corporal punishment for anyone caught writing with the left hand were disturbingly prevalent.
19th century physician, Cesare Lambroso, claimed left-handedness was a sign of pathological behaviour, savagery and criminality. In mid-20th century, American psychoanalyst Abram Blau suggested that left-handedness was merely due to perversity and a result of emotional negativism. British educational psychologist Cyril Burt also described left-handed people as stubborn, awkward and clumsy.
August 13 marks the International Left-Handers Day, and yes, Barack Obama, Narendra Modi, Sachin Tendulkar and I have something in common. Left handers are referred as extraordinarily smart, talented, and great leaders courtesy of some 'scientific research'. But things haven't really changed on the home front.
Every Tuesday evening when I go to a temple the pandit still gives me a ladoo in my right hand, my computer mouse still has to be meticulously placed on my left every morning, and my grandmother still says, “Khaana seedhe haath se khao.”
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