Dr Ratan Bhattacharjee
The days of the Leftists may be history. But not that of the left-handers. Since the distant past, left-handers have been regarded as more creative and intelligent. Many anecdotes and myths pervade about ‘southpaw’ writers, artists and musicians. Though Chris McManus in his famous book Right Hand , Left Hand tried to defy the idea of increased creativity in left-handers, yet the myth of the lefties prevails. In a world of right-handers, the lefties face a more adverse situation. Leordo De Vinci was a leftie though Shakespeare or Einstein were not so. What Vinci had to face as a leftie, Shakespeare or Einstein never did. Rik Smits’ in his book The Puzzle of Left Handedness, observed that the prejudice against left-handed persons is deep-rooted. Consider expressions like ‘right-hand man’, ‘two left feet’ and the fact that Muslims use their right hand for eating and their left hand for ablutions. But Hindus do not use their left hand in any holy ritual. However, in Western cultures at least, the persecution of lefties appears to be over. Five out of the last seven US presidents have been left-handed. But still only 10 per cent of the world population are lefties.
Life is a little tougher for lefties, but it does not mean that a leftie cannot reach the most powerful position in the world frequently. We all know of former Team India captain Sourav Ganguly, a stylish leftie whose stami during adversities was really unique. Left-handers are disadvantaged in some sports because of the safety rules — for example, in polo, the mallet must be held on the right-hand side of the horse. However, in sports where opponents compete against each other directly, face to face, such as tennis, the left-hander has a distinct advantage. In boxing too, lefties get more advantages.
There is a myth explored in ture in a paper published by Diane Halpern and Stanley Coren, ‘Do right-handers live longer?’These two psychologists alysed death records of basketball players and found that those who were left-handed had died younger. In another study on cricketers, it was concluded that ‘Left-handedness is not in general associated with an increase in mortality.’ Geschwind observes that left-handers are more vulnerable to immune disorders and this is endorsed by Mc Manus and Phil Bryden in their 89 studies involving over 21,000 patients, where they concluded — ‘Left-handers showed no systematic tendency to suffer from disorders of the immune system.’ But they suffered a lot earlier in the developing and even the developed counries of the West. People never look at the lefties with a good impression. Left-handers have been a stigmatized minority in an overwhelmingly right-handed population.
Now the question comes about the ambidextrous people whose right and left hands are equally active. They are obviously more active and dymic. Some reportedly cross-domint celebrities and historic figures include baseball great Pete Rose, physicist Richard Feynman, pitcher Greg A. Harris, ice skater Michelle Kwan, video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, singer Paul McCartney, multi-faceted genius Benjamin Franklin and former US president Harry Truman. Very few men are able to write with both hands with equal ease. It is found that the hemispheres of ambidextrous and left handed people’s brains are almost symmetric.
There are many who experience cross-sensory perception. These people are called person with synesthesia or mixed senses. Among synesthetes, the instance of ambidexterity is much higher than in the general population. Studies reveal that people with schizophrenia are significantly more likely to be ambidextrous or left-handed than people who are not schizophrenic. In a word, usually people who are right-handers can become left-handers also with schizophrenic tendencies. The ambidextrous are more likely to possess the LRRTMI gene on chromosome 2 which is linked to schizophrenia. One study conducted through the BBC Science website shows that 4 per cent of right-handed and 4.5 per cent of the left-handed men and 6.2 per cent of the right-handed and 6.3 per cent of the left-handed women said that they are attracted to both sexes. People who identify as ‘either -handed’ score slightly lower overall in general intelligence testing and most often these scores are lower in arithmetic, memory and reasoning.
(About the Author: Dr Ratan Bhattacharjee , Associate Professor and Head , PG Dept of English, Dum Dum Motijheel College, Kolkata, West Bengal)