Last week I read a friend’s post on Facebook about his birthday. There was a mistake about his date and he ended up with two different dates.  That got me thinking about my own. Hold the thought right there, please. I have to indulge in some memories that are beginning to fade.

I was taking my Junior Cambridge exam in Trichurapalli South India. The nun brought us our application forms to check and see if all information was correct. I looked at my birth date. “Hell no, that’s not my birth date!” Actually what I said was, “hunh; hun unh!” I walked up to the nun, and said:
“Excuse me Sister Eugene, my birthday is in January. Not July. This is not my birthday! And I was not born in 1940. That would make me very old for this class.”

She got all red in the face and marched down to the office and brought back a file that had my details of the time when I was admitted to that school. There, in plain sight and bold letters was my birthday typed as July some date and with a wrong year to boot! I looked at her, and told her, “I was born two years later sister, this is wrong. I am not that old.” Then she showed me my father’s signature! M J Mohamed Sayeed! Right there, for all the world to see.
My parents have been playing tricks with me. Why are they celebrating my birthday in January when I was really born two years earlier in JULY?

That evening when I went home, I asked my mother. “Ammijan, what month was I born in?” Her response was prompt.
“What date?”
She gave me the date that I have always celebrated, and added the correct year. She also told me that I was born in Rabbil Awwal of the Islamic calendar. She asked me why I was questioning, so I told her what had happened at school.

She looked at father, and called out, “Ajee, soun rhyin, in kya bolrhy hai?” (Honey, do you hear what she is saying?” He looked up, and the whole scenario was repeated again.

Father, the dean and president of the college, so respected in the community, and carried such authority in his words, looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, it’s not a big deal. The nuns at the convent must have got the dates mixed up with someone else. We’ll take care of it!”

Well, we couldn’t take care of it. The exams were within two weeks or so, and all the applications were being sent over to England the next day, prior to the exams. I am sure father felt very badly about it, but he treated it with a shrug saying that he will get it corrected later. So nonchalant!

I went through that fake birth date and birth year till I went into Pre University and joined Christian Medical College in Vellore South India. The damn birth date stuck on. Father couldn’t correct it, despite the fact that he was a senate member and a syndicate member of the Madras University. Huge positions both.  I wonder now, if he really tried to correct it, or just didn’t bother to correct it because he was always so busy.

Going for interview to the august medical school at Vellore, is an experience in and of itself. The interviews last three days. The students are divided in several groups of eight. Each group has two “Group Observers” who are with us through out those three days… Wednesday afternoon to Saturday. Each student is given a number from 01 to 120. {{There would be several hundred applicants out of which 120 are called for interviews, and of these, fifty (25 girls and 25 boys) are selected.}} The youngest of the lot get lower numbers. My number was 114!! I was with girls who had finished their BSc and had other college degrees. Talk of being embarrassed and feeling foolish. I was a little older than seventeen years then, and was in a group of girls who were in their early twenties.
After the selection and knowing that I was one of the fortunate ones, I went to the Dean’s office and told him that my birth date was wrong. He looked at me as if I was something under the microscope. He told me, nothing could be done, and to just grin and bear it, more or less.

So my official birth date, and the year at the medical school, is something in July of 1940. I don’t remember what the date is; it may be the first of July or the 11th of July or whatever. Now when I get communications from CMC, regarding something neat or important related to the alumni, and they send me a link to open it to read, I cannot do that, because I have to write my name, my birthday (date and year) and the year I joined. I do not remember the date that is in the files there. So I cannot open the link.

Frustration, thy name is Zakiah.

So now I just don’t bother to open any of their links that asks for my details.

Now, came time to come to the US after the marriage.

Are you ready to listen to this saga?

I needed a passport. Father’s personal assistant respectfully asked that he get the honor of getting all my paperwork done and submit it. Since father was so busy, he wanted to help out! Father said that would be okay. A few days before the wedding, he brought the application in for me to sign. Who has time to sit and read the whole polunda (nit picking details) when you are busy getting your hands painted with mehendi (henna), and ubtan (a concoction with turmeric etc) on your face. So I signed the form on the line that the man showed me.

Got the passport within a few days.

My birth month was January, yay! My birthdate was correct. Yay yay!

But the year was 1944.

WTF! No I didn’t say that… but I would have if it were at this time in my life! I yelled and screamed and said that my birth year is wrong. Everyone came running. They all looked at the passport. They looked at the photo. They ooohd and aahhd about it.

I was yelling.“Look at the year”.

They all looked at me like I was daft!
Then I showed them the wrong year. 1944? My younger sister would then be older than me.

They all, every single one of my family, just shrugged their shoulders with a smirk, and said, “So what! Everyone will think you are such a young thing!”

They did think I was young, and still do…. Until I wanted to retire when I turned 65. Then they started asking, “Why would you want to retire when you are not even 62?”


So, the whole reason to write this saga, was to empathize with this friend on Facebook, who had almost a similar experience with his birthday (s), and he posted about it on Facebook recently.
Fortunately my family is aware of my journey through the birthright process. My mother tried to console me by saying that I was born on a very good date in Rabbi ul Awwal, of the Islamic Calender,  and I should stick to that. Yeah right! Can you imagine changing it by ten or eleven days every year? (Lunar months)

Now, and for the last seventy plus years, I have celebrated it only on the correct date in January.

Thank you for reading.

Zakiah Sayeed

Zakiah Ali

Wed, Jun

About Zakiah

I write poetry and some fiction, have a book that was published in 2012. . . Stray Thoughts/Winged Words. I have four grandchildren, ages 16 and half to almost 16 months. I love the ocean, and grew up along the Indian Ocean in South India. I am a retired physician. Don't know much else to say. Thanks for reading. That has been my profile for so many years. My daughter Saadia a great poet and story teller, has two sons; the oldest grandson is now 21 years old, doing architectural engineering at Missouri S&T in Rolla MO. His younger brother is almost 16 and taking driving lessons seriously and is in High School. The other two grandsons, children of my son Sayeed, are 9 and 5. I have recently published another book titled Gulistan, A home of Flowers. It has stories and memories of my childhood and of a distant land which I still consider as my HOME., even though I have lived here in the US for more than fifty years. Hope to see you on my blog.
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14 Responses to Birthdays

  1. slmret says:

    This is a very funny story — and odd that you could never get it straightened out! I think there must be many whose records of their birth dates are incorrect — so many records of those our age or older were hand written, often in bibles of other family records, often destroyed by fire or flood, etc. I’m glad that you, at least, know the correct information!

    • Zakiah says:

      I know, right?? And the worst thing was I was born at home. There was no way of knowing about a birth certificate. For all you know, I might have been born in some other month with another date to boot!

  2. murisopsis says:

    Yep! My grandmother didn’t know that her middle name was not what she had thought and written since she had been old enough to do so. Seems there had been a little disagreement between her parents on what the name should be. Her father told the doctor the name for the birth certificate – which happened to be the name of an old girlfriend!!

  3. beowulf says:

    Actually, this is a really funny story. At least, you tell it in a very funny way.

  4. mrswrangler says:

    My grandma told me stories about birthdays not being tracked well in her time the 30s

  5. krc says:

    enjoyed this interesting story of ur younger days


  6. Wow… I don’t think I’ve heard anything like this. I hope it didn’t affect things like your pension.

    My mom used to tell me stories that some relatives would have their birthdays registered incorrectly. They would remember the lunar birthday in the Chinese calendar. So they used that when they were older, not the date in the Roman calendar.

  7. OH, my! 😮 and Ha! 😀 Gosh so much to go through, SweetZ! So many important things in life need our birth certificate, our correct birth date, or etc., and when things are not correct it causes so much trouble! Ack! :-/

    I’ve had family members who had their names misspelled on their birth certificates and it took an act from above (practically 😛 ), and much paperwork, to get it corrected. The solution from the state of CA was to just staple another piece of paper, to the original certificate, that noted the corrections. Ha! 😀 Oh, well! Now they have to keep track of two papers instead of just one.

    HUGS!!! 🙂

  8. Oh Lucky are you , Zakiah to have two birthdays !! 🙂 so when you were a student you always were two years in advance and in a general way you got two celebrations , the double of gifts and flowers !!! “SubhanAllah”! Finally You have a birthday for your Mum and a birthday for your Dad ! This is really exceptional ! 🙂 Besides you have in you the old Zakiah and the new one !! 🙂 you take profit of the experience of the old !!:)
    Of course , I joke , Zakiah
    Love ❤

  9. I’m sure you don’t find this as humorous as I do. Me? I would celebrate two birthdays but only count (getting older) the real one.;-)
    Love and hugs.

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