Last week, I had to go to the hospital as Plantar Fasciitis had struck yet again with a vengeance incapacitating me. The doctor suggested a cortisone injection. As he got busy with a couple of other patients, the nursing attendant walked in with the necessary paraphernalia to get my foot ready and asked me,
“Ethu kaal ma’am?” (Which foot)
I pointed to my left leg and told him unhesitatingly and confidently,
Who is not familiar with the old Hindi song? ‘Kahi pe nigahein kahi pe nishana’?? (Loose translation: looking one way while aiming elsewhere) Sigh. My action was a slight variant of the situation expounded in the song. I had pointed correctly, but said it all wrong.
Nonplussed, the man paused. What was he to do under the circumstance? The pause though had been only for a moment. Most probably taking my action, which we are told speak louder than words and which probably the man had heard too to be the true indicator (bless him) of facts, he very efficiently made me lie down with the right (in this case the left) foot on the right side for the doctor to administer the injection.
If you think this is one odd occurrence, think again.
Once I was returning to my son’s apartment in Allalasandra from an outing to the city. When the last turning to the apartment block came into sight to the right, I waved my right hand correctly to the right (I always wave my hands) in a gentle arc and told the cabbie
“To the left….in front of that apartment block!”
Unlike the nursing assistant who was able to take his decision from visual cues, the cab driver, quite naturally since he was driving and had his eyes on the road, did not notice my right hand that I was waving to the right in such an expressive manner. The disadvantage with ‘actions’ is that, if not seen, they end up being practically useless as regards their ability to ‘speak louder than words’ and the spoken word ends up taking the lead.
Thus the cabbie giving due importance to the words spoken, turned to the left. No, not the cab. Fortunately for everyone concerned, it was just his head that he swiveled to the left. Finding the left side of the road devoid of apartment blocks as far as the eye could see, the puzzled cabbie glanced backwards at his lone passenger in the back seat. I bet he is not going to forget what met his eye for a long, long time to come. The said passenger was now frantically making determined arcs, and in between pointing too, doing a better job than any pointer dog could ever have done, conveying correctly, that she wanted him to turn to the right.
“Kya memsaab?!´ the justifiably aggrieved man asked and added, “Aap ‘left’ kyon bol rahe ho jab ‘right’ ko jaana hai?!” (What Ma’am? Why are you saying ‘left’ when you want to go to the right?)
Inside the cab I turned a beetroot red hearing him, which was mercifully hidden from human eyes by the fact that it was night and the light which came on inside the cab as it stopped and the door was opened, was a dull yellow. But still, I would gladly have had Mother Earth open her jaws right then and swallow me whole. But I knew she did not oblige one for such minor (to her) matters and so forbore to put in a request to the effect, making do with a mere wish.
Sigh. On the wrong side of fifty, I end up making bloopers about left and right. Somebody please change my name to Confused Shail please, because if truth were known there are more things that confuse me than merely left and right. But I will keep those for another day to elaborate on.
Imagine this ‘confusion’ happening after all the trouble my very strict parents went into teaching the siblings and I the left from right! Draconian would be how I’d describe the efforts made by parents of my generation to instill the rights of using the right hand for the right purposes and leaving out the left. Giving and receiving were only done with the right hand. You ate with your right hand. You wrote with your right hand. The left-handed and the ambidextrous just had no place in their scheme of things. They were scolded, shamed and forced into complying with the staunch believers in Only-Right-Is-Right. Growing up, I had noticed the severe repercussions when my younger brother, who seemed ambidextrous, thoughtlessly stretched his left hand to accept or give something or other. Anti-Left(hand) feelings ran pretty high those days. Amitabh Bachhan with his left-handed ways hadn’t yet happened.
The reason given us for the unambiguous leaning towards right was pretty simple and straightforward. The following scene from the Mallu movie Godfather illustrates it very clearly.
The villain a fisherman, tells the ‘good’ people in the movie, that they cannot rescue the woman he is holding hostage. Look at this hand, he says exhibiting an excellent specimen in working condition, a fisherman’s hand! It smells of fish. Don’t mess with me or else you’ll end up smelling of fish. Wah wah! Poor fellow must have been extremely proud of the piece of dialogue he was allotted by the script writers. But everyone knows, the ‘good’ people in the movie end up with the punch lines.
So Thilakan (a great actor by the way), one of the ‘good’ guys in the movie, takes a step forward, shows his left hand and asks, “Do you see this left hand of mine? I wash my bum with it after I have done my business.” The inherent ‘don’t you mess with me or you will smell to high heaven of solid crap’ did not need any elaboration at all for the audience to go clap, clap, clap.
Well, therein lay the problem as to why the left hands of the world (or just India?) are condemned to ignominy: they are the crap-washers and hence considered very lowly in the scheme of things indeed. Stupid, if you ask me. One would think they would be revered for the noble work they do. Imagine the chaos if they refused?! As kids we were yelled at a lot if we used the left hand by mistake to not use the hand that washed the bum!!!!!!!!! The way the adults made it sound, one would think we hadn’t used soap and water to clean our hands, and everyone knows one cannot take soap and water lightly.
Whenever I heard these recriminations, a niggling doubt used to present itself to me. If your left hand was still dirty (germs!!! Germs!!! GERMS!!!!!) not clean enough to be used the same way as the right hand, even after washing, errrr… ummm…. what about your bum which was still attached to your body? Germs could very easily be crawling out and all over, contaminating you by its very proximity to you, isn’t it?? Besides, what when the left hand by force had to meet its counterpart, the much prized right one, when we did a Namaste? What happened when we clapped? Was the right one polluted as well? Did that touching not contaminate Mr Approved-By-All-Right-Hand? Yeah, I had a wild imagination and wilder questions running through my mind. In case you are wondering I still have.
Anyways… let me come back to my confusion regarding left and right which is the res of the post. I have noticed this about myself that, whenever I have to give directions over the phone or while travelling, I first take a look at my hands, verify it is right/left and then, only THEN, say it out loud. Its like: “Take the first turn to the (looks down at her hands, verifies which is the right one and then…) right. Go about a hundred yards, here take a (looks down at hands to see which side is left and then..) left.” You get the picture? If I don’t check by looking at my hands first, I inevitably go wrong. Sigh. In case anyone has a name for this peculiar condition, please let me know so that I can get help at the earliest. What the heck, it is already too late. But better late than never!
Let me wind up with what happened when my sis and I with our respective spouses had gone to meet our cousin Shashi and his wife Yvonne. It was the usual banter, the wives vs husbands, men vs women sort of conversation, with some good-natured ribbing going on when continuing something she was saying, Yvonne in a mock serious tone protested to her husband that she had always stood by him.
“Come on Sashi, I have always held hands!”
Cousin Shashi, the prankster as ever replied,
“Yes, you held hands. But…”
He paused dramatically and looked at each of us in turn before continuing,
“But… was it the right hand you held….?”
“Shashi!!!!!!” went Yvonne.
She was looking around for something harder than the soft cushions that littered the sofas to throw at him no doubt, when Cousin Shashi who hadn’t finished, said with a straight face,
“Or was it the left?”
Thereafter only laughter could be heard for a while.
Updated to add:
Such an interesting read and had me smiling all the way. My little niece is a leftie. She goes to a madrassa in the evening to learn to read arabic as all of us are supposed to do. She was totally pissed off because not only did the Ustad tell her not to use her left hand to write, the text had to be read from the back to the front and the words from the right to the left.My B-i-L had to go and explain to the teacher to let her be. 🙂
Thanks 🙂 Lol, she must have been one confused child 🙂 Lefties faced a lot more problem during our younger days, isn’t it?
Zeenath M said:
It was fun reading about the wild wanderings of your thoughts on the right and left sides and later about the right hand and left (wrong) hands. We all seem to have this concept of rightness of the right side from ancient times itself. The Bible says that Jesus sat on the right side of God. Quran says about the good people in the here after, who are on the right side.
While eating we are told to eat with our right hand only. That is no problem, but we are also told to take food that is served commonly for all, with the right hand too. When we comply to this requirement a problem arises. As we Indians eat with our own fingers (as against eating with spoon and fork by the westerners) our fingers will be coated with the food we eat, especially moist food in paste or semi solid form. When we use those same fingers to serve second helping for ourselves from common dish, the serving spoon gets smeared with the food coating in our fingers. So I always use my left hand for that purpose. I hate to use such spoon that has smears of food from others’ hands. But some people are careless about this and continue to use their food smeared right hand for this purpose. I hate top eat with such people. 😦
Once in my childhood, when I sat with some people to have food in a relative’s house there was a boy who dipped his fingers in curry bowl to take out meat pieces. I told him, “kai idalle”. He replied to me smugly with a rhetorical question, “pinne kai allathe kaal idano”??
Welcome to Shail’s Nest 🙂 and thanks for he comment. Yup, this rightness of right seems to have been there from old days. They must have had their reasons whether right or wrong. But I don’t understand why we follow them still.
Yuck, I know what you mean. I have seen many people use their ‘used’ hand to serve themselves and that puts me off mighty strongly.
LOL!! This could have been me. The right-left confusion and the mental-physical discord has had me wishing the Earth had opened too. My What if’s and why Nots (wrt. right/left hand rules) have caused a lot of arguments at home. Two of the Pall bearers usually have to hold the body up on their left shoulder, mostly with both hands..tsk tsk…disrespectful to the dead person, isnt it? And what of all those times we carry heavy stuff, we touch with both hands…hmmm.
We do put that ‘wrong’ hand to a lot of right use, isn’t it, in spite of it not being in the good books?! 😉
Gulshan Gev Bamboat said:
Sorry for the incapacitating pain
Which had you, in hospital, lain
You were missed and was going to post
On your wall, but then you did host
This blog on the left-right-wrong strain!
@Gulshan Gev Bamboat,
I am almost back to normal and hoping not to have a relapse. As usual great limerick Gulshan 🙂
G Vishwanath said:
I must compliment you on your ability to retain your sense of humour under circumstances like these.
Your post appealed to me and I fully concur with your views.
I wrote on this subject and posted it on a yahoo groups email list about three years ago.
It’s only 1/3 as long as your post but too still too long to include here as a comment.
If you are curious, you can click on this link
Hope you are fine now
Sense of humor is the only treasure I own 🙂 I have added the link to your post above (without taking prior permission). I hope it is okay with you. 🙂
You have a good sense of humor and a knack for writing! I enjoyed reading this. We all have our moments don’t we? 🙂
Welcome to Shail’s Nest and thank you Beth 🙂 As for those moments, sigh, yeah we do have ’em! 😉
Hehe, that was a fun read. Nice sense of humour you have in your writings. Hope your foot is feeling fine now. I have an aunt who always messes up right and left and invariably ends up getting lost. Poor her!
Thank you, I am better now.
Lol, your aunt sounds someone like me! 😉
Oh, so I found some other similar people as well. My husband falls into your category. So does his sister!! 😛
It must be some consolation for you!
Wah! Our count is increasing! 😉
What if you don’t know your left from your right
you surely know how well to write.
I trust by now you are alright
from all the pain caused by your plight.
Shail if you are in the wrong side of 50, I don’t know what the RIGHT side is. 🙂
Well, look what you have done. Now I gotta find an answer to this one and the right answer too! 😛
Not good reading about the indisposition. Hope you are better.
Late again, here. I have these random moments on the computer, and therefore do random reading and posting, because I am “allowed” limited time here 😀
I am a leftie, who had to convert to the “right” side, esp. for writing. I, thankfully, escaped trauma (I think, but now I wonder if that is why I’m the misfit in the family :D), well active, visible trauma, in any case. So I write with my right, eat with my right hand, but everything else, I need to do with my left. Including serving, eating with a spoon/fork, cutting veggies, stirring, well… everything… 🙂
Was ambidextrous, in writing too, for a while, in school, till Ihad no time to give enough exercise to both. And the right seemed right, at that time 😀
They say that lefties are more creative, the ambidextrous even more… I dont know about it, but I use the argument to good effect when I see people trying to force their offspring/students over to the right, from the left, unnaturally 🙂
Right or Left, what does it matter,
Lets leave little minds to batter
Out silly discriminations against the latter
Better yet, shred those to tatter(S)
I am better though not fully recovered. What? “allowed”?? Who dares restrict you!!! I will throw a couple of bricks at them on your behalf! 😉 And you cut veggies with your left hand? Now I must see that! I am fascinated by people using their left hand! We had a sahayak (I intended to write this story in the post and forgot all about it!) who burn his right hand as a child. He ‘learnt’ to use his left hand, including writing with it! His right arm/hand returned to normal but by then he had become a left-hander! 🙂
Pssst… Are you following in Govind’s footsteps? 🙂 Nice four-liner!
Allowed, as in not supposed to be here, not more than half an hour coz of back 😦
Govind is in a class of his own 🙂 Thank you for even mentioning that I might be following :D, that inspiration!
Ohh I am so sorry to hear that! 😦 Obviously I can’t bung bricks at your back! 😉 That would only worsen the situation! 😛
And get well soon! 🙂
Thank you! You too, Shail 🙂
Loved the write by GV too.
Yes that was good 🙂
I have done this. Actually do it all the time still. Am always confusing friends, drivers, family and poor people on the road who ask me for directions. All.The. Time
Lol, I have company! 😀
Sandhya Kumar said:
I had a good laugh at your expense now! Yes, you have a very good sense of humour, which I envy! My husband and son have this type of sense of humour but I don’t! My sister is always confused about right and left always!
Hope you don’t get the pain now.
Sandhya, I think that’s the Wodehouse connection. Or is that why we all like Wodehouse? 🙂
I am okay now, thanks. No pain 🙂
Pingback: In which I meet a kindred soul | Shail's Nest
Pingback: Day 2: In which I meet a kindred soul | Shail's Nest
Pingback: When left was not right | Shail's Nest