Known for his futuristic experiments and innovations, Leonardo da Vinci was a thoroughly curious man, but more curious was his writing style that flowed from right to left, forcing people to use a mirror to read it. While most theories believe he wanted to make it difficult for people to steal his ideas, a simpler explanation is that he was probably trying to keep himself from smudging the paper while writing with his left hand. But that was da Vinci, the Renaissance polymath celebrated as artist, inventor, scientist and architect. As left-handers the world over celebrate International Left-Handers Day tomorrow, they know only too well the many obstacles they face, societal and otherwise, and the continuing feeling of being a minority in a world made for right-handers. From not-so-friendly teasing to structural details like desks with writing slabs placed wrong and mouse clicks that need to be reconfigured, nothing really goes right for left- handers. In India, where an estimated 10 per cent of the population is left-handed, the belief that being left-handed connotes evil and is inauspicious continues. Indian left-handers have grown up getting a quick slap here and hearing a harsh word there for using their left hand. The word itself originates from the Latin word sinistra, or sinister, that meant left. Deepak Bhati, 29, a software engineer in Bangalore, remembers being scolded for extending his left hand to receive prasad and for giving money with the "wrong hand". Aastha Chugh, 26, a Delhi-based PR executive, recalls getting hit with a stick for writing with her left hand. The slap on the knuckles - literally - for using their left hand left Bhati and Chugh with a few bad memories. But for Anand Jayaram, 25, a media professional, the impact was far more profound. Jayaram still finds it difficult to speak without a stammer. "I remember my stammering started because my teacher in Montessori would force me to write with my right hand. The memories are nothing short of painful. "Right from the postman to the driver and the courier guy, everybody insisted that I give money with my right hand. I was considered a freak, made fun of," Jayaram said. As for the other 'structural' difficulties, they just learn to live with it. But Bhati finds it impossible to deal with "chairs with writing pads on the right" and Jayaram, a gamer at heart, continues to be frustrated by a right-hand oriented computer mouse. Doorknobs, writing pads, scissors, coffee mugs, guitars are some of the tools in a long list of such objects that are meant for right-handed people. Iconic American guitarist Jimi Hendrix decided to turn his right-handed six-string guitar upside down and played it backwards when refused a left-hand guitar by his father. The list of famous left-handed people is long and varied, including names such as Aristotle, Barack Obama and Bill Gates.
Famous lefties closer home include Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amitabh Bachchan and Sourav Ganguly. And there's Sachin Tendulkar of course who became the "god of cricket" playing right-handed his entire career. Has Indian society evolved? Is being left-handed less of a stigma than it was? Not really, says Mumbai-based psychologist Harish Shetty. The stigma still persists, at times creating life-long trauma for children. "Constant nagging and even punishment by parents and teachers to force kids to use their right hand can cause life-long trauma. Although mostly they manage to learn and adapt, they lack self-confidence and try to keep to themselves," Shetty said. Echoing him, Sandip Vishnoi, founder of the Indian Left Hander Club based in Aurangabad, says perception of society needs to change. "The word left connotes something bad or wrong? In Indian culture, the use of left hand for routine activities such as eating, writing and even for religious work is not allowed. "There are families which don't allow their left-handed daughter-in-law to cook food or do religious tasks. The perception of society needs to change," he said. The organisation, which aims to create awareness about left handedness and overcoming social stigmas and prejudices, is setting up the "world's first ever museum for left handers" in collaboration with Bigfoot Museum in Goa. The museum will be inaugurated tomorrow. "Initially, we are exhibiting statues of the world's top 21 successful left-handed personalities... Later, we plan to have more than 100 statues. We are also going to present the highlights and trivia of their lives," Vishnoi said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)