New Delhi, Aug 12 (PTI) A right-handed Fender Stratocaster guitar slung upside down across Jimi Hendrix’s shoulder as he struck the strings backwards sparked a kind of music none has matched since.
Naturally left-handed, the iconic American guitarist and singer had not opted to play on a right-handed guitar. But when as a young boy he was refused a left-handed guitar or even a restrung one by his father, he did what was needed.
As left-handers the world over celebrate International Left-Handers’ Day today, 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 such desks with writing slabs placed wrong and mouse clicks that need to be reconfigured, nothing really goes right for left- handers.
To top it, in India, where an estimated 10 per cent of the population is left-handed, the belief that the use of the left hand connotes evil or 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 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,” he says.
Jayaram recalls that he was considered “a freak” and made fun of.
“Right from the postman to the driver and the courier guy, everybody insisted that I give money with my right hand,” he says.
As for the other “structural” difficulties, the left- handers say they just learn to live with it.
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.
But Bhati finds it impossible to deal with “chairs with writing pads on the right” and Jayaram, a gamer at heart, is frustrated by a right hand-oriented computer mouse.
Has Indian society evolved? Is being left-handed less of a stigma than it was?
Not really, says Mumbai-based psychologist Harish Shetty.
“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 says.
Sandip Vishnoi, founder of the Indian Left Hander Club based in Aurangabad, believes the 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 says.
The organisation, which seeks to create awareness about left handedness and overcoming social 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 today.
“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 adds.
The list of famous left-handed people is long and varied, and includes Aristotle, Barack Obama and Bill Gates. Among the famous left-handers closer home are 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.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.