It’s been more than five years since Veena-Vani, conjoined twins, made Niloufer hospital their home. Not much has changed for them as they turn 10, including the uncertain future; in two years they may be forced to look for a new shelter.
Tucked away in the corner of Niloufer Children’s Hospital, the lives of Veena and Vani, the conjoined twins, couldn’t have been more ironic. The two have been living in a small room in the paediatrics surgical ward for the last five years. It might not seem staggering, but the fact that the two are rarely allowed to meet visitors or almost never taken out of the ward puts things into perspective. With no friends from the same age group, the two depend on the doctors, nurses and the aayahs who have been specially appointed to look after the twins. None of this seems strange to the twins. Their happiness is palpable.
Yesterday, the twins celebrated their 10th birthday amidst familiar faces. As we cross the general ward, which is forever brimming with anxious parents taking care of their kids, we are ushered into this special ward. Veena and Vani are dressed in identical pink and white frocks and they were visibly tired after posing for cameras all day. One of the doctors, who was on duty, tells us that both of the twins are quite fond of drawing. She had made it a point to gift them a drawing book and stickers. Veena had just begun drawing a fish, when we entered the room. “Both of them are very intelligent. They can converse in Telugu, Hindi and English,” the doctor says. For the past few years, the doctors have been teaching them, since stepping out of the ward is out of the question. “We are afraid that the twins might get infected if they are taken outside and even when we do take them for a walk, once in a while, we have to take a lot of permissions,” the doctor says.
“Everyone came to meet us in the morning. Why are you so late uncle?” Veena asks us. We smile at her and look around for her parents. “They didn’t come,” we are told by the staff. Soon after the twins were born, their parents N Murali and Nagalakshmi, who hail from Beerusettigudem village in Warangal district, had abandoned them. A Malaysian couple, who had read about the twins, came to Andhra Pradesh a few years ago to trace the whereabouts of their parents and convince them to take care of their daughters. Their plea fell on deaf ears and Murali, the twins’ father, told the media that he’s not in a position to take care of the twins as he’s a labourer and he already has two other daughters to look after.
In the past two years, two specialists had come forward to study their case and see if they can be surgically separated. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no guarantee that they will survive the surgery,” the doctor says. Two years from now, the twins will no longer be allowed to stay in the hospital. “We do have government children’s homes, but the two are quite fond of the staff here. Every now and then, they will take a look at the register and ask why a certain person hasn’t come that day. It’s fun talking to them. They are completely normal,” the doctors says.
It’s going to be a difficult road ahead for the twins to cope with a different environment, a few years from now. Until then, their banter, sporadic laughter and smiles continue to echo in the confines of the ward which is their home. “Look uncle,” Veena nudges us to look at her drawing. It’s a magnificent blue fish. More than anything else, the fish looked happy in its world. Much like Veena and Vani.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Hemanth writes primarily about Telugu cinema, although he finds inspiration from the works of filmmakers like Woody Allen. Apart from writing, he spends most of his time on Twitter discussing about cinema, travel and life in Hyderabad.