It’s the last few hours before the moment I look forward to the most; the moment when I can set my ‘out-of-office message’ and the holiday officially begins. The excitement, coupled with the tension of ensuring nothing is left undone at work is something I cherish. Before I know it, the moment is here. The farewells are said, last minute details are checked and YES !!! its holidays. A week of wine and cheese, of meadows and valleys awaits my husband, child and myself.
The next morning, the mood at home is a combination of excitement and urgency, my seven-year-old is on top the world; she is going to see snow for the first time in her life. The dog has been dropped off at boarding with hugs and tearful goodbye albeit temporary, the bags are packed, the windows and doors are checked, and we are off. Did we turn off the gas, the question I always ask and am reassured by the husband for the millionth time. Off to the airport, Georgia, here we come!
The flight is smooth, and the views – what views!!! – Vani’s excitement knows no bounds. ‘Mumma look snow – Do you think I will be able to build a snowman? Will I use a carrot for his nose? When will we land? How much longer? I can’t wait!
The airport formalities are swift, our first brush with the famed Georgian hospitality lives up to everything we have heard. A quick and easy check in, followed by three starving people at a quaint restaurant for lunch, where the smell of fresh bread builds the anticipation further. We are welcomed with assorted cheese, and we order Khachapuri – a traditional Georgian dish of cheese-filled bread. Cheese, butter and bread – comfort food at its best. The country is known for its wine – both dry and sweet; red and white and the famous or rather infamous chacha. Tummies full and moods uplifted with goblets of sweet red wine we are ready to explore this historic beautiful country set on the cusp of Europe and Asia.
As we walk around the streets of Tblisi, the beautiful Georgian capital, the sound of running water and the mountains in the distance are everywhere the eyes can see. Before we know it, we are at the Peace bridge – The modern bridge with its steel and glass structure and its led lights is a breath-taking sight with the old town in the background. A scenic walk across the bridge and we are in the tourist part of town. The music of an accordion and an elderly Russian gentleman singing ‘Mera Juta hai Japaani’ welcomes us. Our Indian family gets several people greeting us with the tune ‘Goron ki na kallon ki duniya hai dil waloon ki’ and we realize we can never be too far from a Bollywood tune. The familiar music and recognition brings a warm feeling, a feeling of welcome like no other. Afterall each one of us just wants to be comfortable and feel included. A little further we can see the Mother of Georgia Statue standing proud and tall. She stands with a sword in one hand and a vessel filled with wine in the other. Legend goes that she represents the grit and love of Georgian mothers who will welcome you with hospitality into their homes but if they sense an evil intention, they wouldn’t hesitate to unsheathe their swords.
Colorful shops selling everything from Churchkhela – a traditional Georgian candy with nuts to warm wine which warms the soul in cold weather are all around us. We take in the sounds and the aromas around us. Beautiful trees brimming with lavender color flowers dot the walking path. Tucked in a corner, beside a store with exquisite dresses, I spot a shop selling trinkets and antiques. Something about this shop catches my eye. Leaving my daughter giggling with her father, as they enjoy their wine ice cream cones I go into the shop.
As I push the door open, a tiny bell jingles signaling my arrival to the elderly lady. She is wearing a simple yet very elegant peach dress and a wide welcoming smile. Her wrinkled hands and wise eyes make me think of a woman who has faced the hardships of this world.
My favorite thing about travelling is the people I meet and the stories they tell me. Before long, I am sipping flavorful coffee traditionally made on sand. The aroma of coffee and the wise old lady beside me, take me to another time and place. Soon we are discussing the days when Georgia formed a part of the Soviet Union, how she was raised by her mother while her beloved father and dear brothers were out trying to get them the freedom that the country so desired from the mighty Russians. The more we speak the more I realize that while we Indians are so proud of our rich culture and heritage the same can be said about this lady and her countrymen.
In addition to the usual fridge magnets, t shirts and keychains she has a section of her shop dedicated to the days long gone. Our discussion touches the past, one thing leads to another, and she takes me to a part of her shop which has items that are not on sale. I am intrigued by the old-time camera, her father’s tools and then I spot it – a strange looking pair of scissors. At first glance it just looks like your regular pair, albeit handcrafted. I pay no heed to it at first, but my eyes are repeatedly drawn to its wooden carved handles and glistening blades. The lady follows my gaze and suddenly she sighs. Speaking softly she says ‘I notice you are looking at the scissors my father so lovingly made for me.’ She takes it out of the display case very carefully as one would handle their most prized possession. She goes on – ‘You see I was born left-handed, a rare happening in my times especially for a girl child.’ ‘The world then was less – umm what is the word you youngsters use – ‘inclusive’ back in the day. As a left-handed child I struggled with the most basic things, sharpening my pencils was really difficult, buttoning my clothes could take me several precious minutes, even opening doors is tricky when you are left handed – you see the world is designed for right-handed folks and we measly left-handed ones have to learn to live in it.’ I bit my tongue to hold my opinion, she continued her train of thought, lost in a different time. She mentioned how her grandmother and the other elder women of the house insisted she try and use her right hand and chided her for being slow and clumsy. They went as far as to call her lazy and incompetent, who blamed her left handedness to shy away from her responsibilities from simple chores in the house. She hated that she struggled to plait her hair, failing to imitate her mother who repeated the technique time and time again with her strong right hand willing her daughter to get this right.
Our old lady in her younger days had met her Waterloo when she tried to use the scissors to cut cloth and stitch her own clothes. Try as she might the simple tool would just not work in her hands. Seeing her struggle her father, during one of his visits home decided to make a left-handed pair of scissors for her. He lovingly designed it to suit his daughter’s needs. Her new scissors in her hand she felt liberated, an equal with her right-handed siblings, the world now open to her. This one act of her father gave her confidence like nothing else could.
She now was ready to take on the world, she took to origami and enjoyed paper creations some of which were till this date took prime display space in this shop. As she grew older she took to designing clothes for herself. Her designs were simple yet elegant. These got attention of her friends and family and soon they were all requesting her inputs for their clothes. Given the controlled state of affairs during those times a lot of her designs remained – just designs. However, when the country got its independence things changed. She gathered funds and finally had the ability to start her own shop where her designs from the early days took shape into real clothes. She carried on lost in memories of her struggles and small victories. Her left handedness and her gender both weaknesses that she took in her stride. Before she knew it, she owned the shop with the longest queues outside it. Ladies placed orders days in advance for clothes designed by her. The dress shop that I had seen next to this one is also owned by her, and she shows me some of her dresses with great pride.
As I grew up in a home with a left-handed sister, I often heard well-wishers asking my mom – Does she also eat with her left hand? She surely doesn’t write with it. My mother brushed them aside saying they are both her hands and are equally a part of her body and she can use whatever she is comfortable with. Every-time at a dining table we needed to make sure she was seated at the corner so that her hand didn’t collide with her neighbor’s as they both tried to eat. We keep this in mind till date. Teaching her to light a matchstick was another challenge. Taking a picture with the traditional camera took minutes to get the hold and balance right. Simple kitchen tools like the peeler and can opener wouldn’t work for her. The tiny safety pin would throw her an unexpected challenge. Meeting this lady today reminded me of years of growing up with a left-handed sibling and how she silently learnt to adjust in this right-handed world. Until this day I had never given her challenges a second thought. My respect for her suddenly grew.
I have learnt that only 10% of humans are left-handed, and the reason for why we prefer to use one hand over the other is not known till date. While we have always enjoyed watching a bowler struggle to change his tactics when he has to bowl to a left- and right-handed batsman combination, very few of us have ever taken a moment to think the day-to-day struggles that this same left-handed child would have faced growing up. Despite these everyday challenges there are several celebrities that we all look up to who are left-handed – Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Robert DeNiro, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, King Charles III, Rafael Nadal, Brian Lara and our own Amitabh Bachchan and Saurav Ganguly. Having made their mark in almost all fields left handers have overcome the challenges in our right handed world.
It is often said that people with dominant left hands are likely to have better developed right brains and hence are better at creative tasks. Some of the most famous guitarists have been left-handed and have had to play the instrument upside down. Perhaps, the left handers have been forced to be more creative as the world is full of things that weren’t designed for them.
I was shocked out of my reverie when my 7 yr old sauntered in a gleam in her eyes saying ‘mumma how long are you going to take I want to go build my snowman in the morning and we need to sleep on time’. I grabbed her in a mumma bear hug glad that my left-handed child is born in a more inclusive free world and mentally promising myself that I will always love her for the complete person that she is. We both left the shop, Vani looking forward to the snow and me looking forward to spending another day cherishing the wonderful child that I have been blessed with.