Tuesday, October 04, 2016

A gauche post?

Like any young boy in the old country, the kid that I once was loved cricket.  One of my memorable moments was when Surinder Amarnath entered the scene.  The reason was simple--he was left-handed.  In a world of right-handed people, here was a left-handed batsman and a stylish one at that!

I have always wondered whether I was one of those kids who preferred to use my left hand but was "corrected" and forced to use my right hand instead.  My left hand is remarkably capable for a right-hander.  A few years ago, when I went to a physical therapist for the first time ever in my life, she first took the strength measurements for both hands.  Thanks to her, I now had objective measurements.  And before I could editorialize on those numbers, she asked me, "where you left-handed when you were a kid?"

It puzzles me to no end that in our large extended families there are no left-handed folks.  How could that be?  I suspect that the few who are natural lefties were forced to switch to the right because of the social taboos about the role of the left hand.

We know that left- and right-handedness has a genetic origin. However, geneticists are still trying to pinpoint which bits of DNA are involved, and there may well be up to 40 different genes at play. As things stand, the answer to what determines left or right handedness and why lefties are in the minority remains a resounding “don’t know”. 
I love such "don't know" answers.  Makes life that much more interesting.

Is it my imagination that left-handed batsmen seemed more stylish than the righties?  Or, are lefties gauche?
There’s been a long running debate about how being left-handed affects your brain. The right side of the brain controls the left hand, and vice versa. And so being left-handed can have knock-on effects on the way the brain is arranged.
“Left-handers are much more variable in the way that their brains are organised,” explains psychologist Chris McManus, from University College London, author of the book Right Hand, Left Hand.
Keep in mind the "don't know" aspects.  Yes?  In that case, you won't be surprised with this: "However, not everyone agrees."  Of course not! ;)
It’s true, she says, that when you look at rare conditions, like Down Syndrome, epilepsy and cerebral palsy, the ratio of left- to right-handers is more like 50:50 rather than 1:10.
Did you know that I was also worried as a kid that I had Down Syndrome?  It is truly a wonder that I have made it this far despite all kinds of angst as a kid, as a teenager, as a full-fledged adult!
Peter Hepper, from Queen's University in Belfast, has done some wonderful ultrasound studies looking at babies’ movements inside the womb.
He found that nine out of 10 foetuses preferred sucking their right thumb, mirroring the familiar pattern we see in the general population. And when he followed those children up many years later, the babies who were sucking their right thumb in the womb became right-handed, and the ones who preferred their left, stuck with that.
So, maybe I need to examine photos from my infancy when I might have been caught sucking on my thumb.  If it were my left thumb that I was sucking, then one of my life mysteries will be solved.  But, of course, such photos do not exist.  I will blame my parents for this ;)

6 comments:

Ramesh said...

Well, Well, you know who Surinder Amarnath is ??? I am totally shocked :):)

Unfortunately you chose a wrong example to make your point. Surinder Amarnath was actually born right handed. His father, Lala Amarnath, turned him into a left hander in the belief that it would improve his chances of making it in top grade cricket. He batted left handed, but bowled left handed because his father didn't care to change his bowling arm !!

I don't think you sucked any thumb when you were a baby. I fancy you read Nabokov instead. :):) Ha Ha

Mike Hoth said...

Are either of your parents left-handed? The mother of a child seems to have a larger genetic share in her child's handedness. If the mother is right-handed, her child's chance at being a lefty is 10% regardless of the father's preference. The mother being left-handed doubles that chance, to about 20%. Both parents being left-handed jumps the chance to 35%.

If your parents did coerce you away from left-handedness, they certainly did spare you some of the pains of living in an other-handed world, though!

Sriram Khé said...

I didn't choose any wrong example, my friend. All I knew was that he was a left-handed batsman. What a horrible story of Lala forcing his son to be something that was not. BTW did you mean to write that Surinder A bowled right-handed?

Laugh as you want about Nabokov. The following is from the notorious RBG's op-ed in the NY Times:
"At Cornell University, my professor of European literature, Vladimir Nabokov, changed the way I read and the way I write. Words could paint pictures, I learned from him. Choosing the right word, and the right word order, he illustrated, could make an enormous difference in conveying an image or an idea."
Her full essay here: ttp://nyti.ms/2d4purb

My parents are not left-handed. Maybe in the survival of the fittest process, my extended family over the generations managed to eliminate the lefty gene from the pool--given that marriages are arranged only within the sub-sub-castes ;)

Ramesh said...

Yes indeed a typo. Surinder Amarnath bowled right handed, but wasn't a great bowler.

Anne in Salem said...

A left-handed uncle liked to joke that only southpaws are in their right mind.

My daughter broke her right thumb playing goalie so learned to eat and write, among other skills, left-handed. She still practices both just for fun, and her left-handed print is neater than the right-handed print of any of her siblings (or her mom, on occasion).

Sriram Khé said...

One of the many names/descriptors for the warrior Arjuna in the Hindu myths (well, myth for people like me, but the holy texts for the believers) meant that he was ambidextrous. Obviously his dexterity was a prized asset. Your daughter is in that select company ... how awesome that she can write with either hand, and write clearly and legibly!

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