When was I born?   dual birthdays… practice

Vasudevan Chellappan recollectes in his own humorous way,  the practice of dual birthdays.  A practice that sent a child to school early… and its aftermath in the later years…  enjoy.

Many of our generation are lucky to have two birthdays. One is official and the other actual (biological?). The usual story told to me was that I was a very naughty child and the family decided to enroll me in the school. Probably, I was just three-and-a-half-year-old when my dad dragged me to the school probably on the usual re-opening date of 4th June. As he was told about the five-year rule, he deducted five years and wrote down my date of birth as the same date but five years behind. That is how my birth date became 4th June. I think, in those days, as they were busy giving child-births, it didn’t occur to them to obtain birth certificates.

I came to know that my date of birth was 4th June only after receiving the school leaving certificate. Till then I was told a different date. There used to be a Telegram which my maternal grandfather had sent to my dad stating that my mother had just delivered a baby boy. To complicate matters further, my people used to ‘observe’ my birth day based on the birth star of the Tamil calendar. This date will fall in November some time or December some time.  You know, first time I cut my birth day cake was when I had completed 56 years.  While dining with my wife in a star hotel, an enterprising waiter overheard our conversation and brought a cake to our table with a candle. Free of cost of course.

One day, while I was a junior official, I got a call from the PS to MD that the MD wanted to meet me. That was the last thing one would like to happen to someone in our organization. I went to him and asked what the matter was. He dreamily lifted his head from a file and told that he was not aware. I asked him should I wait as someone seemed to be inside the chamber. He said, ‘no need’. ‘You can tap the door and go inside’. I gently tapped the door with all respects, instantly pushed my head in the gap and asked ‘May I come in?’  The MD was sitting in a corner of a sprawling room and someone was sitting before him. He called out my name and asked me to come to him. I resisted looking at the figure that was sitting before him, aiming my eyes only on the MD and kept walking towards him.  After nearly, what appeared to be a furlong of walk, I reached his table. He got up and handed over an envelope to me and wished me many more happy returns of the day. How come I didn’t know it? Then we shook hands like the leaders in a summit meeting. His face brightened up for a lightening moment and went back to its normal mode. I carefully hid my surprise and thanked him. I felt that the two gentlemen were getting back into their conversation as if nothing had happened before a while. I came out of the chamber but did not forget to thank the PS. He nodded without lifting his head from the file.  Hiding the envelope, I returned back to my seat.

I used to get dejected sometimes that because of wrong date of birth I had lost nearly one and half years of service. I would give to myself a small consolation, that I had become eligible for the concessional interest rate on deposits, concession in darshan tickets etc one and half years earlier than otherwise.  Indeed, my retired life has got longer by one and half years.

Chellappa Vasudevan

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