On being left-handed -- by Julian Francis Back   Home  
For an old man, you have a very good memory!" This was the comment of a trainee at a workshop I recently attended as a guest speaker. I had been remembering the work in the refugee camps in India in 1971.

"That is because I am left-handed", I replied, and added, "It is also a sign of high intelligence." This sort of comment helps people to relax a bit, for some feel uncomfortable not knowing what to say about left-handedness. This is particularly so in a country where being left-handed is rather frowned upon.

August 13th is International Left-Handers Day, an annual event founded in 1992 when left-handers can celebrate their 'sinister'-ity and increase public awareness about the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed.

Of course, being left-handed is becoming more and more accepted and an increasing number of gadgets are becoming available for us 'lefties', not just the left-handed scissors and tin openers. Banks in the UK are seriously considering the introduction of left-handed chequebooks, and if this happens the frustration of awkwardly filling in the cheque stub will soon be over. Other useful things which have come on to the market are left-handed rulers and pencil sharpeners, particularly good for left-handed schoolchildren, and things for adults like a potato peeler and a left-handed corkscrew!

Of course, to make us feel better, we need to remind ourselves of all the famous people who are or have been reported to be left-handed. A very surprising thing is that four out of five of recent American Presidents were lefties, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush (Sr.) and Bill Clinton. Further back in history other people who used their left hands were Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill. I have even heard that Mahatma Gandhi was left-handed, though I am not sure.

Artists such as Michelangelo, Picasso and Raphael were all left-handed as too the writers, James Baldwin, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain and H.G. Wells.

With such illustrious persons as those mentioned above, we need to encourage people not to think of the 'lefties' as 'sinister' (Latin for 'left') people. We may be a little bit different but that's about all and when my friends make fun of my clumsiness or awkwardness, I tell them that as the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body, then only left-handers are in their right minds!
This article was published in DailyStar of Bangladesh. Author is currently European Co-Director of the European Union.