On the left side of things

Shalini B

Is it wrong to be a southpaw? This autorickshaw driver certainly seemed to suggest it. When he dropped me off at the office this morning and I was giving him the auto fare he said to me, “Amma, acche haath se de do, boni hai” (Madam give it to me with your right hand, you are my first passenger of the day). I was taken aback and certainly felt insulted! I know all about the Indian sentiment of the right hand being the good hand, but I don’t understand it. As a left-handed person, my left hand is my right hand!

My parents never gave my left-handedness a second thought and in the confines of my home, all was well. But when I stepped out into the right-handed world, I was made to feel as if something was terribly wrong with me. I remember I was enjoying a delicious wedding lunch once when an aunty came up to me with a sweet smile and asked, “Don’t you know you have to eat with your good hand, beta?” Concerned relatives and friends would often corner my parents and ask them why they were not teaching me to distinguish the right hand from the wrong. I was a girl. I had to be married off at some point and what would my future in-laws think of having a southpaw for a daughter-in-law?

I had problems at school too. I used to go to one of those schools that had about 70 children in one class. So, about 5 or 6 of us were made to sit on this long bench to accommodate all of us in that one classroom. I often had to fight for space with my right-handed neighbour on the left. When we had to take down notes that the teacher dictated our elbows would hit each other. Then there was this one particular teacher who insisted that I learn to write with my right hand, until I had my parents complain to the principal. At the end of every semester, when progress reports were distributed among students, a class teacher wouldn’t give me mine until I extended my right hand.

So you see, it isn’t easy being a left-handed person. Everything is designed or built for the right-handed person. I wasn’t able to use a scissors on my own until they started making scissors that both right and left-handed people could use. Cutting open a milk packet used to be such an ordeal, I remember. When you buy shirts or blouses with buttons on them, you realize that they were stitched only for the right-handed person and not for you. When computers became such major tools in offices, I had to train my right hand to learn to control the mouse. Since my right hand is the weaker of the two, it still complains when I force it do things. Sometimes I wish there was a left-hander store, where we could buy things made just for us lefties.

Well I am who I am – a southpaw – and there is nothing wrong with that, so the autorickshaws can ferry their right-handed passengers, while I get my left-handed husband (a pleasant coincidence) to drop me off at work every morning.

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