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His fifth birthday in 20 years

india Updated: Jan 21, 2008 19:23 IST
Neha Tara Mehta

In exactly 39 days from now, Hemant Kumar, a second year engineering student in Jhansi, will finally celebrate his fifth birthday. Born on February 29, 1988, this ‘leaper’ is quite literally, leaping with joy already. “I haven’t cut cake in years, but this February 29, my college friends plan to bake a strawberry cake for me,” he says.

The odds of being born on February 29 -- which comes once in four years -- are 1 in 1,461, with only an estimated 0.0684 per cent of the world’s population comprising leap day babies. Like many other leapers, Hemant, too, grew up confused with the quadrennial question: ‘Why does my birthday come only once in 4 years?’ He says, “I would think that my parents dropped February 29 from the calendar so that they didn’t have to buy me gifts.” But now reality doesn’t bite, or rather byte, as the computer science engineering student will get a computer from his parents on his ‘fifth’ birthday. “And look at it this way – I will always be young. Even at 80, I would have celebrated only twenty birthdays,” he grins.

At age “quarter-to-seven”, leaper Deepa Agrawal, a web designer who counts late Indian Prime Minister Morarjee Desai as “one of us”, is also basking in the elixir of youth. “My husband’s birthday is on March 1, so each year, we cut the cake on the 28th midnight and I assume that I lived my birthday for a minute!” says the 27-year-old. This year, the couple is looking forward to celebrating on consecutive days, starting with a romantic dinner at an Italian restaurant.

Among the hottest party destinations the leapers can choose to celebrate in is the ‘Leap Capital of the World’ at Anthony, New Mexico/Texas, USA, where the 6th Worldwide Leap Year Festival will be held from February 28-March 1 . But ‘small wonder’ Shipra Grover, aged ‘4.75 years’ at 19, a member of the global Honor Society of Leap Day Babies, plans to celebrate in India with her family and friends. Another Delhiite, who is a member of Orkut leaper groups that help leap day babies click with fellow leapers from Tundla to Thrissur, is saving up the best wine for special friends. “After all, leap day babies are special souls on deputation to earth,” he says.

And Aamir and Nahid, both 29, will celebrate this February 29 by leaping into matrimony. “It’s a strange day to get married – but strange is unique. We are already enjoying our little fights over when we will celebrate our first anniversary,” jokes Aamir. The flipside of the ‘uniqueness’: “We won’t get to celebrate our 50th anniversary, and will have to have our golden jubilee party in our 48th or 52nd year of marriage,” says Aamir.