Archive for May 27th, 2008

May 27, 2008

Weddings, bottoms, and other sinister tales

As some of you know, a couple of months ago the nice people at the New Indian Express offered me a biweekly column (it is called Practically Marzipan) in their saturday paper. Last week’s column (click on the long skinny picture to read) was about something I have spoken about here in the past – prejudice against people who are left handed.

My favourite story about my southpawdom is one I felt would be inappropriate for the column. As a very small child I only visited India once a year or so for family weddings and similar functions. My parents, being the sort of people who didn’t really mind their child growing up in the west and isolated from good Indian values, had never really drawn attention to my lefthandedness. In school the only attention really paid to it pertained to the handing out of lefthanded scissors. So I was understandably surprised, at the age of five or so, to come here and have distant relations draw back from my left hand when I handed them things, or to be told to do perfectly normal things “properly”. Being an inquisitive sort of child I demanded an explanation from my parents. The reason I was given was that (quoting from wikipedia) “…in some societies including India, it is customary to use the left hand for cleaning oneself with water after defecating. The right hand is commonly known in contradistinction from the left, as the hand used for eating.”. This made sense to me.

It followed, I concluded, that lefthanded people like myself would in fact clean ourselves with our right hands, and eat with our left. At the next family function an elderly relative attempted to swat my left hand away from my leaf plate and force me to eat with my right hand. I said indignantly, disgustedly and (this is the important bit) loudly “but I wipe my bum with that hand!”

Pandemonium occurred.