Born on the 29th of February : The Tribune India

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Born on the 29th of February

Born on the 29th  of February

Former Prime Minister Morarji Desai. File photo



Sumit Paul

ONE of the reasons why former Prime Minister Morarji Desai is remembered is that he was born on February 29. People who arrive in the world on this date get to celebrate their birthday only once in four years. Such persons, like left-handers, are few. They tend to make the most of their special occasion because it is not a routine annual affair.

The odds of being born on a leap day are one in 1,461. There are only about five million ‘leaplings’ in the world. James Milne Wilson (1812-80), a former Premier of Tasmania, was born on a leap day. As chance would have it, he breathed his last on a leap day as well. Though ‘leapers’ don’t get gifts every year, the world is not completely indifferent to ‘nature’s freak children’, as Sir Bertrand Russell would call them.

In Spain, schools celebrate the birthdays of such children on March 1, and they get a surprise gift from the Roman Catholic Church on February 29. In Ireland, such kids receive a surprise gift, lots of chocolates and a teddy bear on March 1, besides a two-day break. And is there anything more fun than enjoying a special holiday while your classmates are in school? A little ‘leapling’ does not even have to lie about having a bellyache to avoid going to school on these days.

In Myanmar (Burma), ‘leaplings’ working with government or private organisations get paid leave a day before February 29. But they are expected to turn up at the workplace on March 1 so that the organisation can celebrate their birthday. In Hong Kong, March 1 is recognised as the legal birthday of a ‘leapling’ in the common years, while February 28 is celebrated as the birthday in New Zealand.

In South America, especially in Bolivia and Chile, people born on February 29 are considered to be fortunate and blessed with longevity. In Argentina, ‘leapers’ are deemed to be lucky charms and mascots. In Cuba and Corsica (the place where French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was born), such children are thought to become eternal flirts when they grow up!

February 29 is generally believed to be a lucky day. However, one in every five engaged couples in Greece avoids tying the knot in a leap year because they believe it brings bad luck. Russians fear that a leap year is likely to bring more weather disturbances and a greater risk of death than usual. Scottish farmers believe that leap years do not bode well for crops or livestock, thanks to the old proverb, ‘Leap year was ne’er a good sheep year.’ In China, those born on February 29 are said to be lucky in life, especially in matters of love. No wonder our beloved Morarji Desai (1896-1995) drank life to the lees and almost completed a century.


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