The lines on her cheek where the tears rolled down glistened underneath the yellow tube light. She stood in front of her desk and under the cold glare of her teacher, she attempted to write the Bangla alphabets on the paper with her right hand. Her left hand had to be put away behind her back and if it showed its unlucky face, the teacher would spare no time using the cruel cane.
While her other classmates moved on to writing full sentences and paragraphs, she, in grade two, was left to redeem her sin of being a left-hander and demonstrate a poor show of basic alphabets day after day.
This is a wretched page out of my childhood.
However, now well into adulthood, I understand what I begrudged as a child. Frankly, unbelievable as it might seem, my teacher had my good intentions at heart. He took it upon himself and even thought it his duty, I am sure, to save me from being shunned from a community that regards lefties as ominous, crooked, and even evil.
His flaw was his ignorance, despite his education.
Unfortunately, no matter the country or culture, many believe in odd and unnatural superstitions and myths prevailing in their society. For instance, it is widely believed among the uninformed that the devil sits on the left shoulder and guides the left hand, or that lefties have a shorter life span.
Additionally, not to mention all the make-believe folklores about left-handed wicked witches and sorcerers. In many of these frightening stories, the left-handedness is either a curse forever or considered as nothing less than a weakness, an abnormality: not like a cute dimple on the cheek, but almost an ugly deformity.
Interestingly, not many people know that about 10 percent of the world population is left-handed. But as parents, teachers or tutors often force little ones to practise writing with their right hands and eventually adapt it, we see fewer lefties around us. Eventually, a large number of lefties learn to be ambidextrous, they learn to use both left and right hands.
It can be a great conversation starter too if the right kind of people are around! When people see us writing with our left hand, they express their awe and admiration. Sadly, many regretfully share how their parents told them they used to be lefties in their childhood but with their help and guidance, they are now able to write with their "right" hand.
Importantly, as a parent or teacher of a lefty, we need to be aware of the fact that left-handedness is not a disability or an imperfection. The child simply prefers the left hand over the right just as right-handed people prefer the latter. Therefore, as wise conscious adults, we have a few key responsibilities.
Firstly, our children should be made to realise that there is nothing weak or sinister about being different. On the other hand, it may even be a gift! Most researchers say that left-handers are more creative, have more leadership ability, and are better at multi-tasking. There are countless famous artists, players, and celebrated thinkers like Leonardo Da Vinci, Marie Curie, Mahatma Gandhi, Diego Maradona, Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey who are left-handed, just to name a few.
We could also tell our kids about "International Lefthanders Day" - a holiday only dedicated to all the lefties out there! It is celebrated on August 13 to make more and more people become aware of the wonders of being a lefty. This day was first observed in 1976 by the founder of "Lefthanders International Inc" - Dean R Campbell.
Our kids should know that only they have the makings of magical mermaids! Well, a little exaggerated perhaps, but certainly not a lie. According to neurologists, lefties can adjust to seeing underwater much quicker than righties.
Again, if our little left-handed loved ones are treated with disrespect due to this difference, let us encourage them not to be disheartened. Tell them that while most do it from lack of knowledge, others do it from fear! Yes, fear.
The truth is some people are actually scared of left-handedness! This strange fear even has a name – "sinistrophobia". It is defined as the "fear of things at the left side or left-handed people".
Finally, let us win the trust and confidence of our little ones so that if they face any harassment or humiliation due to this dissimilarity, they feel comfortable enough to share it with us. Instead of ignoring and disliking those with any kind of antagonistic behavior toward lefties, we could try to enlighten them about left-handedness.
In today's world, in many places, there are many tools to help lefties but even if there is not, we will be alright. If anything, the challenges will make us stronger and more self-sufficient.
Decades later, holding my son's hand lovingly in mine, we walked into his new classroom to meet his playgroup teacher for the first time. As Izaan looked around with curious eagerness at the bright classroom full of colorful toys and crafts, his eyes lit up.
Yet, I was still anxious.
I waited till the little chit chat about school instructions and the filling up of papers were done, and then I informed Izaan's teacher that there is something I would like her to know about him: he is a leftie just like his mother.
But, before I could request her not to try to change that in him, I smiled and sighed with relief.
She had turned towards her young pupil with surprise in her cheerful eyes and exclaimed with glee, "Is that so Izaan? You are so lucky!"
Tanzima Baten is a lecturer at Brac Institute of Languages, Brac University and she loves to write about all genres of literature and language. She can be reached at [email protected].