“I take my patients in only when they’re in absolute agony” my doctor informed me cheerfully, when I went in for my ultrasound test 21 years and 7 months ago. And his face clearly told me that he didn’t think I had reached that stage yet. Thinking uncharitable thoughts about the good doctor (I was in no state to think kindly about anyone at that moment), I went back and waited my turn at the water dispenser; behind another woman with a distinct baby bump.With a grimace , and rising nausea, I continued drinking more water and looked round the waiting room.With all those mothers-to-be in various stages of pregnancy, all swilling water like there’s no tomorrow; I thought I finally knew the reason for so much water shortage in the world!
At last when I could stand it no longer,I tottered up to the receptionist and begged her to send me in next. This wasn’t agony, it was sheer torture!! As the test got underway, I could detect a thoughtful look on the doctor’s face. Finally he muttered something about getting a second opinion and hey presto…….. yet another doctor joined the party. The two of them then went off into a huddle in a far corner of the room. After a few minutes of earnest discussion, my doctor came back with a broad grin. “You’re carrying TWINS” he announced triumphantly. He probably felt that the situation called for some dramatic handling and his announcement came out somewhat like the one at the Academy Awards Ceremony, “And the Oscar goes to…..!” But the reaction from his audience was most probably not what he anticipated . Certainly no winner of the Oscar has ever reacted the way I did after I heard the breaking news…. I simply slid off the examination table and sprinted to the nearest wash room (right then the most beautiful place in the world for me). Usain Bolt couldn’t have done it faster I assure you. And I didn’t even pause to grin cheekily at anyone on the way there!
But my sister, who had accompanied me to the clinic, did say later that I looked a bit dazed then. And many moons later, I still had the same dazed look, as I held the tiny squirming pair (T1 and T2 the nurses called them), in my arms for the first time. A little while earlier, my father had stoutly refused to let me look at the double bundles; because I had muttered that I could see two of everything as soon as I came out of my anaesthetic stupor and he didn’t want to add to the confusion.
As my boys and I started getting to know each other in the days that followed, random visitors to the clinic dropped by to see ‘the twins children’ as they were referred to. In between ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over Exhibit A and Exhibit B, they did spare me a look of….sympathy, I assume. “How,” their looks seemed to convey, “was I going to manage? If looking after one was a full-time job, two would be……!!”
Overtime. That’s what it was, as my mother and I discovered in the coming months. Every sleepless night that I had I would wonder – when these two were born together, bawled together, fell sick together, and did everything else together……why oh why couldn’t they fall asleep together?? Wise and experienced relatives assured us that this state of affairs wouldn’t last for long and that things would be relatively easier after the first 5 months. After the 5 month stage, when life only got more exciting, they came back to advise us that it was only the first year that was tough and once that was crossed, it would be a breeze. Then that extended to the first 3 years……. All in all, I felt like I was running the hurdles with the finishing line jumping ahead just as I reached it!!
As the years passed, although the boys weren’t exactly identical, people outside our immediate family were invariably confused and it was fun watching them as they tried to identify one from the other. Most people were, I suspect a shade disappointed when my twin tales didn’t tally with their Bollywood- fed ideas of “How a pair of twins should be….!” Well, let me see , I was pretty sure my twins didn’t get separated at birth! Nor did they get lost at the local village fair…! And one of them is certainly not aiming to be a cop while the other……well let’s not go into that. It was also very entertaining when complete strangers on the streets would come up and exclaim over them; and we would then proceed to play “Twenty questions”: “Did they share feelings and emotions? Did they think alike? Did they sneeze together? Did they complete each others’ sentences? Did I ever double feed one of them in confusion? Did I secretly prefer one over the other? Which one did I love more?” And so on and so forth… Each time the last two questions came up , and they almost always did, believe me….. I would do a double take. Is that even possible!!! It’s somewhat like asking which of my eyes I favour!!
But I must say, whatever else they did or didn’t do together; being twins meant that, when the time came, both birds flew the nest together, at the same time, simultaneously….. leaving behind a double dose of the empty nest syndrome. All at once we were left behind with their empty bedroom, their empty twin beds, their empty wardrobe…… And as they settled down in hostels far away from home and from each other too for that matter, and tried to make a life of their own, we were as anxious and worried as they were initially. But gradually as the months passed and their phone calls got less frequent, and their friends moved up a few paces higher on the list than us, it was time for us to step back and let our twin birds spread their wings and fly higher. Now whenever they come home on brief vacations in between their semesters, and they tell me how much they miss me as they hand me a load of laundry they want me to wash, and a list of the food they want me to cook; I’m suspicious about the reasons for being missed. But a few minutes later as they stretch luxuriously on their old beds and declare “Ooh its good to be back home”, a mother’s heart melts and overflows….
Much later when I see their stuff spread around the, until now, neat and tidy house, I know my boys are home. For now at least!!
And then, I feel like I’ve finally crossed the finishing line, won the race……. and got my twin trophies!!!!