Twin Tales: A Double Take!
1.6 million twins are born each year worldwide, one in every 42 children is born a twin
Bollywood with its stardust and glitz has always been a great influencer. So was it in the 70s, a template for fashionistas and a trend setter in just about everything. Twins or ‘Judwaan’ is a familiar theme sanctified by Lord Rama and Sita's twins, Luv and Kush, in the epic ‘Ramayana’ and we have many more instances in Indian mythology.
It is a pop-up theme in Bollywood and regional cinema. Hema Malini in the 70s film 'Seeta aur Geeta' had made twins into a fun feature.
I least expected that the twin theme would hit me up close and personal. I learnt quite late in my first pregnancy that I had twins clamouring for my inner space. None of the advanced diagnostic technology was available then.
Though there was a family history of twin births, the throw of the DNA dice is generally random. So, like a lottery that other people always get, I never thought it would happen to me. Bingo! I got the lottery most unexpectedly, with the prize of a set of fraternal girl twins.
The suddenness of the news made me cry and laugh at the same time. Not being a statistics beast then, I was unaware that 1.6 million twins are born each year worldwide, with one in every 42 children born a twin. And India is close to the top podium position in this twin fertility bonanza globally with one in 10 births.
Apart from the obvious comment of ‘Seeta aur Geeta’, I was the recipient of wisecracks like "You have two in one!" from those who always look for a good deal in everything and "Economy of labour" from those with a Marxian bent of mind . Occasionally the family planning slogan, advertised zealously those days to tamp down the burgeoning population, was thrown at me slightly tweaked, "Tum do, Tumhare do"!
Unfazed by all this, I was in an endless loop of work from one baby to the other. Feeding, bathing, changing nappies, singing lullabies, baby-talk and catching my forty winks when they slept, was my 24/7 routine.
The upside of this constant loop of being on wheels was that I was at my slimmest best. The downside was that I often used my pronouns wrongly with other newbie mothers, always asking about their bundle of joy as "How are they?", instead of "How is she/he?"
They forgave me my grammatical aberrations, because unlike the current gender-fluid language "they" was not a gender indicator but a simple pronoun. Motherhood, nobility and joy notwithstanding, is tiring business for sure.
As the twins, Himaal and Swanzal, were growing up, it was always an in -house road show. Whenever we were out on the road, one saw folks nudging each other, stealing another look or plain gawking and doing a double-take on my double delights, always dressed alike.
Many times there was confusion about who's who! Despite colour coded feeding bottles and baby mats, many a time the doting Nani fed the same baby twice realising it only when the other one cried in hunger!
As they grew, so did their pranks, taking full advantage of their ‘twin-ness’ in fooling friends and teachers in school. The humorous poem on twins by Henry Sambrooke Leigh, though on twin boys, catches the flavour of the hilarity and confusion caused by my lookalike twin girls:
It puzzled all our kith and kin/
It reached a fearful pitch,/For one of us was born a twin,/
Yet not a soul knew which!
Amongst a tally of their rapscallion acts some stand out for the sheer ingenuity and playfulness they always exhibited. A vinyl disc of the Jackson 5 (Michael Jackson and his siblings), which could've been a collector's item, was sent careening across the floor as a frisbee.
The famous ‘Mattel Hug Me’ doll was disrobed, dismembered and made to swim in the bathtub with whoops of delight! But their deep connection with each other from the prenatal stage to now has remained uncannily strong. Both have chosen to be architects and their bond, despite living in different countries, has remained adamantine.
Lest I take any inordinate credit for shaping them into what they are, Khalil Gibran's oft-quoted lines from 'The Prophet', come to mind:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of
Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
Sobering lines for all parents!