Why South Asians Often Have Multiple Birthdays

Sure, two birthdays means double the cake, but for some, it’s also a reminder of a turbulent past.

Sushmita Pathak

June 27, 2022

Why South Asians Often Have Multiple Birthdays
Illustration by Karuna Gangwani for The Juggernaut

Baishakhi Connor used to think she was born on April 29, a Sunday. For some reason, her mother remembered it being a Friday, but the family didn’t make much of it — until one day when Connor, a teenager at the time, found a piece of paper while cleaning their house in India. It was a note from the hospital saying they were discharging her mother on April 28, after delivery. Connor realized she had been wrong about her birthday that whole time. She was indeed born on a Friday: April 27.

Connor thinks the goof-up happened when she enrolled in school. “None of us knows why, and we don’t have birth certificates,” she told me over the phone from Australia, where she now lives. Both of Connor’s parents, her sister, and her foster daughter have two birthdays. So does 70-year-old Mike Ghouse, an Indian American who got a second “official” birthday when he was age 4, to facilitate early school admission. The Indian American astronaut Kalpana Chawla and acclaimed writer Khushwant Singh also had two birthdays. 

The fake birthday phenomenon is so common among South Asians that it’s practically an inside joke. “Do your Brown parents have two different birthdays, or are you normal?” one tweet reads. “You're not Indian unless your dad has at least 2 birthdays,” goes another. A nascent subcontinent with bigger priorities than birth registrations and where many children used to be born at home, South Asia — like many developing regions around the world — wasn’t great at preserving dates. Even after record-keeping started, South Asian parents frequently manipulated birthdays when it came with tangible benefits. Beyond the fun anecdotes, though, this mix-up is sometimes a reminder of a turbulent historical period.