32-year-old teacher celebrates her “eighth” birthday

Leap year: Sonam Om gave birth to her first child, a boy, yesterday. It was special. He was born on February 29 and his birthday will come once every four years. Sonam was unaware of this.

The mother looked peaceful with her baby nestled safely in her arms while her husband started at them protectively. Sonam, a villager from Paro, doesn’t consider the leap year any special like an auspicious day or year in a Bhutanese calendar. But she is worried when the leap year is explained. “What will I say when he celebrates his birthday once in four years while the rest will celebrate every year?” she said.

Not many are born on February 29. The chances are one in 1,461. When Sonam’s son celebrates his 10th birthday, he will be 40 years old!

Another parent at the referral hospital, Tshering Zam, 23, who gave birth to a healthy baby girl said she is happy that her girl will be celebrating her birthday once in four years. “We can make her birthday extra special and celebrate it with grandeur.”

Her husband, Pema Tenzin, 28, said he didn’t know that it was a leap day until his brother called. “I was very excited to find out that my girl was born on a special day. I consider my daughter lucky.”

With them, 10 other babies were born on the leap day in the referral hospital and one girl was delivered in Wangduephodrang as of 8:30pm. Other dzongkhags such as Samdrupjongkhar, Bumthang, Zhemgang and Trashigang reported no deliveries.

While the newborns will be unraveling their lives with leap year, there are others like Tara Devi who has already got a hang of this day.

The teacher of Gelephu Higher Secondary School has somehow figured it all out being one of the few leaplings or leapers in the school.

A leap year is an extra day added to the end of February every four years, Tara Devi said, who have researched a lot on this topic. “It takes around 365.2422 days for the earth to orbit around the sun but the Gregorian calendar uses only 365 days. To keep our clock, calendar and earth’s season in sync, a leap year is added.”

While there are many numbers of scientific researches done on this subject, many fail to understand and are confused about leap year, Tara Devi said.

“My friends tell me to celebrate either on February 28 or March 1 but I eagerly wait for the leap year, my actual born day,” she said. “There’s certain charm and specialty to it when your birthday comes after four years.”

To make her feel loved and special, her family members, friends and students have started celebrating her born day from February 26 itself.

“They are more excited about my birthday than me. They have literally planned everything and I’ve been receiving gifts and surprises since then,” she said. “Since today is the last day, I’m sure there are more surprises on my way.”

Being a leapling, she had a certain advantage when it came to her age, she said.  “I joke with my friends that I’m just eight years old, the youngest teacher at the school.”

Another leapling is Tshewang, a graduate from India, who also celebrated his birthday with a grand diner party with his friends in Thimphu last night.

While Sonam Tshering, 28, from Yadi in Mongar, said he celebrated the special day with his family. “It’s fun to celebrate birthday once in every four years. I consider it unique and special.”

Thinley Zangmo