Were you born on the 29th February ?
Kansas is Home. It’s a pity I ain’t livin’ there anymore. I always thought I was unique. I had this keenness of sight, this acute sense of smell ever since I was born. I could smell fear. And I saw blood. ALL the time. I’m very earthy. My skin feels like warm wet clay. And it looks like sand on a beach. In
Washington, among the Prairies, I can hardly be seen at all...
My family has been living in Washington for generations. After the Civil War, my great great grandfather was bequeathed acres of land in Washington County in the state of Kansas by a dying heirless war-hero.
We’ve lived here ever since. I know Washington, every nook and cranny. Every tiny inch of space where a molecule could be squeezed in. Maybe, it’s because it’s a small town. Not many households you see. But everybody knows me. From the affable errandrunning boy of the town, I’ve become the quiet strong Carl. Quiet. I like sitting in the porch in the evenings, sipping beer. Sometimes I go out to The Ranch for a drink.
Sometimes, I hunt. I can’t say I’m very talented but I really like to hunt. In 1975, I had four animals entered into Pope & Young's trophy hunting world-record books. It’s nice when people appreciate trophies. They should too. It’s a matter of great pride. In fact, The Ranch has a mount of the whitetail I hunted in 1968. It attracts a lot of customers, you see. I like going there. Jerry, the barman tells everybody about it. They keep talking about how good I get the game.
It was there that I met her. How can I ever forget her? Large blue eyes, fair golden hair just like the Prairies, just like me. And pale. So pale. Was she Nordic? A Hansen, yes, a Hansen she was. She was not from the town. A foreigner. She was from Alaska. As soon as I walked in, Jerry announced- Gentlemen, the birthday boy is here.
Everybody in the bar raised their drinks to my health. There is so much feeling in that town.
She sprung out of her seat and said- Were you born on the 29th of February?
Its 29th February today, so I guess so.
Me too! Happy Birthday to us, you know! I’m so glad we met. I never met a person I share my birthday with until now. Do you mind if I join you?
We spoke for quite a while. She looked pale. Cold and Icy. Her cool blue eyes. She didn’t look like anything I had seen before. She didn’t look human.
Jerry told me about that deer. Why did you kill it?
I hunted it. It was on my land. I don’t like trespassers. No business here.
I’ve hunted seals in Alaska. Hunting is an experience. I’d like to hunt in Kansas too. But I need lessons, you know. From you.
Talk. Talk .Talk . She talked herself to death.
How about me giving you some Hunting tips tonight?
Tonight?-she giggled- Then when do we start hunting?
As soon as you’re game for it.
She caught hold of my hand. We ran out of the bar, into the car. She leaned over and kissed me several times.
We drove through the fields and she looked excited about a “fun”– filled lesson.
We stopped short at the barn.
It was a dark night. No moon out there. Everything still and beautiful. Perfect for a hunt. Hunting in MY experience - and by hunting I simply mean being out on the land - is a state of mind. The faculties are fully incorporated into the landscape. It is more than listening for animals or looking for hoof prints or a shift in the weather. It is more than scouting, baiting and camouflage. To hunt means to have the land draped around you. To engage with it in a wordless dialogue, one so absorbing that you stop talking to people around you, people within yourself. Only the animal speaks. The predator speaks.
Relationships melt, like you melt in the scenery. Blend with it. Patterns - hoof prints and a bird's warning call – become relationships. Relationships become Patterns. Suddenly the pattern - which maybe a memory of your family, and memories of the Prairies you have walked through - takes in the Whitetail. The bulletshot is like a word spoken out loud. It occurs at the periphery of your imagination.
When I hunt I am spiritually engaging in an age-old predatory relationship of Nature. I feel like a witness, a party to the common ecological process -- just as a bear seeks its prey.
I was in a trance. I gagged her, I don’t know when. My hands were ever-steady. I told her we would be playing a game of hide and seek. She hides, I seek. She ran out of the door into the sultry night. Running through bushes, running through the Prairies. Running through the Prairies that shines like her hair in the golden sun. Running away. Running like the deer. Running like game. Running for her life.
There, I killed it. I put a .223-caliber bullet through its head.
Johnny from Spain
Once There was a handsome man from spain
He was called Johnny, who loved the rain
On twenty ninth feb, he said
I hate rain, lying in bed
for Lightening left his butt in pain
Look before you leap
-Anita, Preethi (tadpole tag)
Born on the last day of Feb was a man named Peep,
Too sad it was in a year that was leap,
Peep was sad, loony and shattered,
That his B'day celebrations were so scattered,.
So he told his parents, "Please....LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP!"
(continued on page 4 in the original copy)
What is it like to be born on 29th February? The question fascinates one and all. We, the leapers, caught up with someone who was lucky enough to be born on this day. Karthik Puthraya is a second year BTech student in Engineering Physics at IIT, Madras.
How does it feel?
“It feels slightly weird. I feel a lot younger”, he says in one of his usual peppy tones. It is unique to be able to age four times as slowly as others around you.
“What exactly makes u feel weird?”
“Actually it is not me but people around me who think it is a little weird.” It is true that is special to be born on this day and people do exclaim in surprise when you say your birthday to them.
However, life is not so rosy as it seems. When asked about the disadvantages of the same he says, “Actually there are a few practical problems. At many places there is no provision to accommodate 29th February.”
“Is that so? Could you elaborate?”
“Like for example on the Institute Hospital card, my birthday is written as 28th February because probably the computer software doesn’t account for leap years”
Now, that is something unusual. A birthday is very important for records and such and these technical problems might cause complications.
He throws some light on the technical aspects of the issue, he being the national record holder of being the fastest solver of the Rubik’s cube. He says, “Moreover, most people don’t know to calculate leap years. Do you know?”
“Years that are divisible by four, right?”
“Ha! Got you!” he exclaims in delight. He directs us to the Wikipedia article on leap year which turns out to be quite informative.” Contrary to common misconception, the calculation of leap year involves one more condition. He gives us a hint, “There is some catch involving the last two digits. For example, the year 1900 wasn’t a leap year.” He explains further, “The year must be divisible by 4 and not divisible by 100 for it to be a leap year.” Now, that is something not many people would have known.
Coming to birthday celebrations, we asked him, “When do you generally celebrate you birthday? 28th February or 1st March?”
He replies, “Actually I don’t celebrate on either day”. “But you can take it as 28th although, this time I have 29th”, he adds with one of his characteristic charming smiles.
Being the IITians that we are, the next question asked was, “So, are you giving a grand treat on your actual birthday? After all, it is the only time in your life at IITM.”
He laughs and adds diplomatically, “Let me see. I guess I will get some grand bumps too.”
“One more interesting question; we generally remember birthdays only when we keep wishing people. What is it like in your case? Do your friends remember your birthday because it’s on a special day or do they forget because it is so infrequent?”
”People will obviously remember. It is unique.”