Monday, September 9, 2013

Don't use your wrong hand.

My son is a leftie, that means left hand is his dominant hand, naturally he uses his left hand for most of major tasks where he need to use his hands in day to day life (like writing, eating, throwing). Actually, if we look around, we can easily see that most commonly available things (like computer mouse, cricket gloves, musical instruments like guitar, etc.) are designed with keeping right handed people in mind, obviously the simple reason behind this is because they are in the majority. It is good to see that now left handed versions are also available for most of these things. this is a very good thing, because of this most of the time lefties don't face any major problem, there might be little inconvenience but things are available to cater their needs. But my son faces huge problem whenever he goes to some Hindu religious gathering or to some pujas (a religious ritual), there he is always instructed 'to use his right hand,' or instructed 'not to use his wrong hand' to perform all rituals (even in my own home), this used to create lots of confusion and trouble for him, especially since he became aware of these things. Now he is old enough to understand why people around him say this, reason behind this is right handed people are in majority so most of these things are designed by keeping them in mind. He understands this, but at the same time it is puzzling to him why it is wrong to use left hand during religious rituals? For him left hand is his strong and dominant hand, when someone forces him to use his right hand he doesn't understand the logic behind it. Many places he obliges and wherever possible he just ignores the instructions. If people are too rigid and admant on him using the 'right' hand then he tries to avoid those places because things don't make sense to him. He tries his best to avoid any confrontation on this issue (this was one of the reasons he stopped going to ISKON gatherings). 

There are some theories and logic proposed to explain why one should use right hand during rituals, one very common belief is that since the left hand is reserved for personal hygiene one should always use right hand as it's more clean (so more pious). People from India should understand what I mean by left hand is reserved for personal hygiene, but again this assumption is true for right handed people. In past proper methods of sanitation (like soap, sanitizer) were not available then this thing might have made some sense, but today with all these methods at our disposal to keep us clean, so this tradition to use 'only right hand' doesn't make any sense. It is also important to note that by insisting 'use only the right hand' we knowingly or unknowingly hurt people who are not right handed, or for some reason cannot use their right hand or sometimes both the hands. People who insist on this 'right' hand rule make all these people feel awkward and abnormal, I don't think this is the right thing to do, definitely not a sign of an inclusive society.

I explained to my son why people insist on the use of right hand, I also told him what are his rights as a person living in a free and democratic country. He is free to reject or accept things based on his own personal beliefs like others. I also offered him some suggestions on how to deal with these type of situations, but finally I leave it to him to choose his response and allow him to deal with these things on his own, I don't interfere unless he asks me for any help. I think now he understands people's attitude better, he is not confused or surprised by their comments anymore, but I think not all kids get this type of support or explanation. It is quite possible that they might start thinking that something is wrong with them or they are different than others just because they use different hand, this might affect their confidence and behavior. Actually, we all are different and unique in some way or another, but still we all are same, we all are equal because after all we all are humans. Minor differences like skin color, gender, race, use of right or left hand, sexual orientation should not result in any discrimination or discomfort. Every human should be treated with equal respect and dignity. I want my kids to grow in a society where these differences have no place in it, where one can use whatever hand or leg (for people with no hands) to perform any ritual (religious or non religious), for me this is a sign of a truly tolerant and inclusive society, I am willing to work towards building such society and culture, are you willing to be a part of this journey?

Thank you for reading and please share your views on this topic. 

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)

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17 comments:

  1. I was always a rebellious kid and I used to use my legs deliberately to pick up fallen books etc. many of my medical friends used to object too, but I simply used to ask them why my legs are treated badly even though they do much more and heavier work than my hands do? why discriminate between body parts? needles to say, conversation was always fruitless, because what else can you expect? proper discussion? well, after 30 years, I have given up on that .. hahaha. I still use my legs to pick up fallen books, and God sarswati is still with me...

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    1. Rebellion is the result when something is forced (good or bad doesn't matter) without any proper explanation or explaining reason behind it, normally rebellious people are not that much against such simple traditions as much as they are against they way it is forced upon them..so as long as people don't change their ways they have to face rebellious people like you..:)

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  2. Vishnu I would call your actions ignorant because you refuse to understand the sentiments of others culture. Just because you don’t agree with the views of others is not a reason to be rebellious and taunt them by deliberately going against your friends beliefs. I think they have explained the reasons for their beliefs. Instead of at least attempting to respect them you deliberately go out your way to upset them. To upset someone or just to prove through arrogance that by picking the book up with a feet means nothing to you is not really a good action by you. Im sure they are not forcing you to pick the book by the hand. If that is the case then they are also in the wrong.

    People like myself respect the book as form of Knowledge which to me is akin to divinity and hence to be treated with respect.
    What you have resorted to do not something brave or a great deed.

    The eyes are for seeing but it does not mean you can stare and gawk at a girl. Yes you do so if you want.
    The nose is for smelling and breathing but it does not mean you drink from your nose.
    The tongue is for speaking amongst other things but it does not mean you can say foul worlds at whomever you like.
    Thus the feet are for walking and whether wearing a slipper or bare footed they are clearly not clean and therefore you do not pick or stamp on books which are respected as Knowledge and akin to divine.

    The argument is not about that the books are divine or not but its simply someones belief that we respect.
    The blogger wants everyone to respect left handed and right handed equally. Likewise picking the book with your hands is simply a mark of respect for others way of belief. A belief that is in no way going to be detrimental to your life in any way.

    Off course the book will give knowledge to you if you touch it with your hands feet or backside. A book will give knowledge to terrorist and saints alike.

    Sometimes you have to abide and respects others way of beliefs and ensure it does not offend them or hurt them in some way. That’s all there is to it when your friends ask you not to touch the books with your feet.
    For example
    You would not walk not a temple with your shoes because the society has reasons and therefore even if you don’t agree, you have to abide by their rules. Its called giving respect.
    If you understand the word ‘respect’ then I hope you will from now on pick up the books with your hands –at least whilst in front of others—so as not to offend them.

    You should not think of this in terms of something being forced on your but rather respect others way of understanding and perspective. Because in doing so, its not detrimental to your life in any way shape or form.
    When you purposefully act in arrogance it does hurt those who give respect to Knowledge. So please do try to understand the perspective of others. I don’t think it would make any difference to your life if you picked the books with your hands.

    Off course we can be arrogant and say why can’t they do it my way. The simple answer is that many things have been around a lot longer than you and I and if these beleifs are not going to detrimentally affect your way of life then by abiding in these rules surely there is no harm in performing such rules. Reading about you having done this for 30 years, hurts my feelings and being boastful that Goddess Saraswati is with you is equally sad to read. What you don’t realise is that a book will give knowledge to a terrorist and saints alike.

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    1. Thanks a lot for your comment, but the question is whose belief should be respected here? Vishnu should respect his own beliefs that both hands and legs have equal status and many things which can be done with hands can be also done using legs (people who don't have hands do this all the time and we praise them for this) OR belief of others around him (specially in India) that hands are more pious than legs, so hands should be used during pooja or lifting the book? How to decide who is right and who is wrong? We can not always go by majority (because beliefs change from region to region) and there no simple explanation here which can clearly solve the problem, so I think we should have more flexible attitude and then there will be less friction and confrontation.

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  3. The reply was to Vishnu and it would be appreciated if he gave the reply.

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    1. I would really like to know your name, as very few people I have seen explain anything like this in India. I wish my elders would have explained me things. Not that I would have followed, because as Vinay mentioned, I have my own beliefs. That is my way of treating things equally. Agreed legs are not meant for lifting books when my hands are fine, but it was more related to me touching books with my feet by mistake initially and then me moving on to become rebellious to prove my point. It was never to disrespect others.

      But in no way I am here to defend myself, because I am way past that age that I will listen to anyone anymore. Point here is, there are kids out there like me, who wants proper explanation. I dont enjoy the life of rebelliousness, but most of the times, I have no choice. Hope those rebellious kids get proper explanation at least and their energy is used better and they get better life. Hope you respect myopinion as much as I respect yours, I truely appreciate you writing in detail here... No dis respect to you....

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  4. I was just re reading what you wrote about me. I just realised that, because I lift books with legs, you called me ignorant, and very close to terrorist in the end...

    Thats the kind of mindset whom I was and am fighting against. Give me one logical reason why one should not lift books with legs. Dont tell me because it is already established. Corruption is well established fact in our country, that doesn't necessarily mean that is right. Is it? I am sure you must have been part of anna movement and all, I dont know why you dis respected Indian politicians by being part of it. Respect is earned my friend, not asked. What if from tomorrow me and group of my friends suddenly say lifting books with hands is dis respectful for us. Would you stop doing that? I dont know where does this concept of dis respecting etc comes from, it runs very deep in our society. Last I heard, Hindu religion is supposed to be most tolerant religion, I never saw an ounce of it in anyone.
    Anyways, what is right for one may not necessarily be right for others. Osama bin laden is terrorist for many, but he is god to few as well. Same thing with modi, obama or any name you can throw in here.

    Remember, galileo was sent to prison for saying earth revolves around sun, that was contrary to well established fact that earth do not move. So please do not stop people from doing what they like, you never know, the next big thing is already in someone's mind around us and we are stopping them because they are DIS RESPECTING well established facts...

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  5. Vishnu,

    I’ll have to answer this in two parts.

    When you first read my post --you had read it with the right frame of mind and I respect that. When you re-read the blog-- some other nature came to force and you started seeing everything in a negative frame of mind. The mind can certainly play tricks on us.

    We do things out of ignorance and dont realise what or why we are doing so and thus this word ‘ignorant’ is used –its use is not meant to be foul or nasty. However I do apologise if you have been hurt in anyway.

    You said [[Give me one logical reason why one should not lift books with legs.]]
    I have already given you logical reasons but you have chosen to ignore them and are asking for more reasons.

    Looking at books as Knowledge and hence akin to Divine for many is a good establishment in many Hindu society and since we want people to educate and benefit from Knowledge it still is a great way to encourage reading and learning from books or attend schools or focus on education. Books that are kicked and stepped upon makes it appear that we do not care about learning.
    Besides getting books dirty and smelly is not a good idea in any case. This is simple basic logical hygiene value.
    If we look after them then they will last longer and we can get the most benefit from them year after year and even a lifetime and even pass onto next generation. So handling them with care and attention is natural and we dont even need to get religious about it to do that. So do pick them up by hands next time.
    However if someone believes that picking or touching books with the leg is disrespectful to the gods then there is nothing wrong in that view since respecting that persons belief is not going to be detrimental to our life or anyone’s life in any way. Its not like the person is telling you to do anything bad.

    Turning the argument around and saying why cant they respect my wish to touch the books with the feet is really being ignorant and rebellious for no valid reason.

    The example you give of corruption makes no sense. And besides corruption is an evil in life we certainly dont want to encourage. The respecting of books is a good value which we can take away with us and learn from. So let us take good things in life.


    [[What if from tomorrow me and group of my friends suddenly say lifting books with hands is dis respectful for us. Would you stop doing that?]]

    Please make logical arguments; since you would have no other way of lifting books then.


    [[I dont know where does this concept of dis respecting etc comes from, it runs very deep in our society.]]
    It is a natural progression that has come through teachers and wise people who wanted to educate children and adults and encourage through religion to learn much Knowledge as possible --which otherwise they may not bother or focus on.
    Even today in this modern society respecting books is a good encouragement and reason for children and adults to learn from. Those who dont need such encouragement then they find other means of being inspired.

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  6. Hi Vishnu

    Part 2 here


    [[Last I heard, Hindu religion is supposed to be most tolerant religion, I never saw an ounce of it in anyone.]]
    It is your misfortune that you have not met any tolerant Hindu. But when you go around stepping on books and purposely go about your way to hurt the sentiments of your friends and family then what else are you expecting? Intolerance of your rebellious behaviour does not make all Hindus bad. Perhaps you should try looking at your own self before pointing fingers at others please.

    Why don’t you be that example and show tolerance? You expect it in others then you should give it by example. So from your own example, I expect you will pick up books by hands?



    [[Anyways, what is right for one may not necessarily be right for others.]]
    Off course very true and agree.
    But here when someone has told you that this is what they believe and respect and then for you to mock and disrespect them, and laugh at them, as you have confessed, then you are in the wrong.



    You say [[OBL –Modi- Galileo ............. -- So please do not stop people from doing what they like, you never know, the next big thing is already in someone's mind around us and we are stopping them because they are DIS RESPECTING well established facts...]]

    I think you are going off the tangent with these random examples which have little bearing to the point of discussion. Im sure perhaps your points would be very valid in some other topical discussions.


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    1. well, here goes the 19th or 20th century arguments... Since we are only going to get deep in argument, there's not much to talk about. We are only trying to prove each other wrong which is no good, I am not here to score brownie points trying to prove myself right and you wrong. The religion, scriptures and blah blah blah are things of past, wake up and smell the coffee. Agree or not, we are in 21st century and noone gives a shit about those ideas, at least in my world. I am an atheist and only thing I care about is law of land. No other law stops me from picking books with my legs, so I will continue to do so...

      You can keep that respect and words like that in your pocket. I dont need to prove anyone that I respect people. If anyone in world thinks I am dis respecting them or their religion, well, those people do not exist for me and I dont care about them, because as soon as they think I am dis respecting them, they surely have lost my respect in them.

      Regarding me swaying off the topic, well again, I dont give a damn, because I am not here to argue or score brownie points trying to prove you that I am right. We probably wont meet ever in our lives, so you do not exist for me except in this conversation.

      You might come across many people like me in your life. You have a chance to either understand their sentiments, or you can keep bashing them and squash their ideas. I have already mentioned that I am not too proud of picking books with my legs, but I will continue to do so, because I dont think its wrong either. If you think its wrong, thats your problem, keep trying to change me, hang me, or harm me, but I will not stop until everyone agrees that others point of view are also important. I am just trying to prove democracy here and trying to teach people a lesson on democracy. Well, I should not expect democracy from those who follow religion, because they already have their sets of rules from god knows which century and they are claiming to live in 21st century.

      So good luck trying to change me, I can guarantee you that people like me wont change. Agree or not, I have no doubt people like me are good for society because we challenge old ideas and we try to bring change for good. Agreed book lifting with legs might not be that, but only reason I will continue to do that because I can. I am a master at it by now :). Who knows I might lose my hands in accident tomorrow and my this quality would come to great use then, you never know my friend. Good luck with your age old beliefs....

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  7. Vishnu,

    This is in three parts and its going to be my last reply.

    You say [[……….Since we are only going to get deep in argument, there's not much to talk about.]]
    Yet again you approach this with a negative frame of mind and it creates barrier. There is no argument here –only discussions.


    [[We are only trying to prove each other wrong which is no good, I am not here to score brownie points trying to prove myself right and you wrong.]]
    My points to you have nothing to do with brownie points. Im merely explaining that mocking others is not respectful. You also wanted valid reasons which I have given.


    [[[The religion, scriptures and blah blah blah are things of past, wake up and smell the coffee. ]]
    Religious scriptures are still very much alive in every daily activities for millions and you need to accept it rather then living in denial.
    I have not mentioned or quoted any religious scriptures yet somehow you bring this into the discussion. I have made my points even from a non-religious point of view. I think you are thinking too deeply into what I am saying and making a lot of assumptions. You are mixing your views and opinions perhaps made by others in the past and therefore cannot see the points I have made.


    [[Agree or not, we are in 21st century and noone gives a shit about those ideas, at least in my world.]]
    Actually there are millions who care abut this idea and value it dearly. I personally do. Please don’t try to dismiss it with some 21st notion. The world doe not revolve around you only. You want respect then its time you started giving it yourself.


    [[ I am an atheist and only thing I care about is law of land. No other law stops me from picking books with my legs, so I will continue to do so... ]]]
    Yet again another misconception. You have the notion that someone is trying to deny you your right to use your leg. You are not thinking straight. You being an atheist does not mean you can be rude to theist.
    I have merely tried to explain to you why you should not be so rude to others beliefs and explained your behaviours.
    You need to stay focused on what is being said.


    [[You can keep that respect and words like that in your pocket. I dont need to prove anyone that I respect people. If anyone in world thinks I am dis respecting them or their religion, well, those people do not exist for me and I dont care about them, because as soon as they think I am dis respecting them, they surely have lost my respect in them.]]
    lol you are becoming very confused and rude now. It is you who wants respect yet you don’t want to give any back. You only want thing done on your terms or not at all –this is the picture you are painting so far.


    [[Regarding me swaying off the topic, well again, I dont give a damn, because I am not here to argue or score brownie points trying to prove you that I am right. We probably wont meet ever in our lives, so you do not exist for me except in this conversation.]]
    This conversation is not about me or my existence. I don’t exist to anyone. But you exist and you need to know the hurt you are causing to people by your actions.


    [[[You might come across many people like me in your life. You have a chance to either understand their sentiments, or you can keep bashing them and squash their ideas.]]
    Indeed I have come across many people like you. But none have been rude, mocked or been arrogant to my beliefs. You have openly shown all this and I have merely pointed them out and tried to give you a different perspective.

    But I think you are only thinking that Im here to attack and abuse you in some way.
    Another misconception.
    So you are now opposing anything and everything and even things I have not said.
    Your emotions are quite natural and understandable.


    You said also you are too old to change.
    Remember we are never too old to learn anything.
    You will find that as you progress in life you are always leaning new things and we are forever becoming wiser with age (I hope).


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  8. 2]

    [[I have already mentioned that I am not too proud of picking books with my legs…]]]
    Good. A little humility goes a long way.

    [[…..but I will continue to do so, because I dont think its wrong either.]]
    Many problems start with ignorance and arrogance.


    [[If you think its wrong, thats your problem, ……keep trying to change me, hang me, or harm me,]]
    How can I hurt you or hang you? These comments suggests you are not thinking straight. You are making things up yet again. I am merely responding to the mocking comments you made. The change will always come from within-- when you are ready.


    [[I am just trying to prove democracy here and trying to teach people a lesson on democracy. Well, I should not expect democracy from those who follow religion, because they already have their sets of rules from god knows which century and they are claiming to live in 21st century.]]

    Religion—Democracy—lessons—these are big words and you need to have a good understanding of them.
    You have a dim view of religious people and make assumption about them –which is not a good idea.
    But you are very young with your thoughts and don’t know what you have written.

    It seems you are building a barrier against what I say and some preconceived notions. So anything I write is futile.
    You need to read what I have written because for now it is sufficient in this 21st Century.
    So Im hoping this will be my last comments to you.


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  9. 3]

    [[So good luck trying to change me,]]
    An endless list of misconceptions continues and the rest I wont even bother commenting on 


    [[Who knows I might lose my hands in accident tomorrow and my this quality would come to great use then, you never know my friend. Good luck with your age old beliefs....]]
    Well I hope all that training will come in handy then (pun intended).
    And yes –the very best of luck to you and hope you don’t have such an accident.


    I’ll leave you with something I literally came across and its for interest only –nothing more.
    Hate has 4 letters
    so does Love.............
    Enemies has 7 letters
    so does Friends........
    Lying has 5 letters
    so does Truth....................
    Negative has 8
    so does Positive.......
    Under has 5
    so does Above....................
    Cry has 3 letters
    so does Joy..........
    Anger has 5 letters
    so does Happy.......
    Right has 5 letters
    so does Wrong.......
    Are they by Coincidences?
    It means Life is like a Double edged Sword,
    We should choose the BETTER SIDE OF LIFE......:)

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    1. I wonder if life is double edged sword, how you choose one edge over the other? How you decide which is better and which is worse?

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    2. Wow, someone has so much time trying to dissect all my points one by one and explain me why I am wrong. Haha, thats what I call scoring brownie points. If you really think you are not in argument, well, you really need to google its definition. Discussion happens when you let others share their points. But obviously you are here to go after people asking them explanations on what they said.

      Someone has written a blog, I liked it, commented on it from my previous instances, and I wanted to let it go there thinking I have contributed to discussion and hope others who read knows whats in society. Instead you come after me trying to prove why what I did was wrong. So let me tell you again, I dont care what you think of me.

      I have already written what I think. Take it or leave it. Just write in comments (and not as replies) on what you think on given subject, and leave it. Let readers decide what is right and wrong, and then we can say we discussed.

      Here, you are coming after all my points to prove you are right and I am wrong.

      I respect your opinions, but do not concur with it necessarily. You have right to do so. But dont come here trying to say who is right or who is wrong. Let readers decide. You decide if you want, and keep it to yourself. But dont force it on others. I never came after you, you came after me. Hope I am clear.

      If you still dont understand, then good luck. You have proved beyond doubt that you are being judgmental. What are you here to prove? Grow up and respct others opinion. Not necessarily me because I am very strong minded and such things do not affect me an inch. But I know there are people trying to get away from norms and they for sure need help. Unfortunately judgemental people like you in society are making their life tougher by creating definitions of respect etc. I wish I can help those guys by saying dont give damn to such people because those who ask for respect do not deserve it because they are respect hungry and will go to any extent to try to get it. People like me on other hand do not care about respect, because we know we will get it if we deserve it. We do not go and ask for it. Respect follows me, on other hand people like you follow respect. If you, or any person for that matter is strong enough, they will never ask for respect, period. So to hell with your respect and respecting others sentiments. I do not respect weal people...

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  10. Hi Vinay,

    Your post reminds of an incident that occurred when I was a child. It happened that I had to visit a temple and incidentally my right hand was unclean – maybe I had touched my footwear with it or I had placed my right hand unknowingly in a dirty or filthy place. Whatever the reason, my right hand was definitely unclean. So when it came to taking the prasad I obviously forwarded my left hand which was relatively ‘cleaner’. As expected, it was rejected by the fellow distributing the prasad. When I explained him the reason he asked me to clean my right hand and then take the prasad. Now, I agree that prasad should be taken by a ‘clean’ hand. But in the given situation my left hand was definitely the cleaner of the two. So was this fellow there trying to suggest that one should take prasad from his right hand alone irrespective of whether it’s actually clean or unclean? I cannot help but laugh at such absurdity.

    Majority of the people in the world are right-handed, as we know. And that is why perhaps the left-handed who are in minority are unfortunately prejudiced against. However, this bias runs deeper. The English word ‘right’ meaning ‘right hand side’ also means ‘correct’. The word ‘dakshin’ (दक्षिण) in Sanskrit meaning ‘right hand side’ also means ‘good’. Its antonym ‘vaam’ (वाम) meaning ‘left hand side’ also means ‘bad’. Are these mere coincidences?

    Another sphere where this bias has been applied is in gender discrimination. Being a patriarchal society, the ‘right’ side has been traditionally attributed to the ‘male’ gender, given that ‘right’ means ‘good’. Females being considered inferior had to therefore make do with the ‘left’ side. Look at the Hindu iconography and you will realise this. For instance, Parvati will always be shown to the left of Shiva. Or take any other divine or semi-divine pair you like: Laksmi and Vishnu, Radha and Krishna, Sita and Rama or Vitthal and Rukmini. The positioning will always be the same. The following shloka in the ‘Ram Raksha Stotra’ is categorically indicative of this bias:

    Dakshine Lakshmano yasya vaame tu janakatmaja
    (दक्षिणे लक्ष्मणो यस्य वामे तु जनकात्मजा)

    Here, Sita though an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi stands to the left (or ‘inferior’ side) of Rama whereas Lakshman being a male stands to Rama’s right.
    Even where Parvati is shown sedentary on Shiva’s lap, she sits on the left lap not on the right. Or take a look at the image of the Ardhanarishwara, the synthesis of the masculine and feminine energies of the universe, where one half of the androgynous body is shown as male and the other half as female. Here again the right half represents the male and the left half that of the female.

    Finally, I have even heard that in India palmists read the left hand of females and the right hand of males to make a prophecy. I must admit that I am not much aware of palmistry but if what I have heard is true then this differentiation may also be another brick in this wall.

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    1. Thanks again for your very insightful comment, you have given very relevant examples and raised very pertinent questions. All these customs or traditions if followed blindly knowingly or unknowingly induce and built bias about many things in our mind [specially about certain people (caste), opposite gender, etc.], if we keep on questioning these things we might be able to reduce their impact on our thinking process.

      I also observed same thing as far as palmists in India are concerned, this attitude is totally inadequate, sexist and based against the left hand but because this is so old custom people don't feel anything wrong about it. Thanks again for putting such a valuable inputs to the discussion.

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