Chandigarh: Twins in Punjab, Sohna and Mohna are witty, intelligent and sensitive. But fate has it, physiological barriers have barred them from staying separate. Yes you read that right. The prankster twins are conjoined.
Sohna and Mohna, the conjoined twins, who will turn 14 on June 14, are variously known as pranksters and the unofficial news channel of Pingalwara at Manawalan Kalan near Amritsar. “Whenever there is a prank played somewhere, the first question we ask is, ‘Did you see Sohna-Mohna nearby?’” says Yogesh Suri, who looks after the Manawala campus spread over 30 acres.
The twins, who have two hearts, two pairs of arms, kidneys, and spinal cords but a single liver, gall bladder, spleen and one pair of legs were born at Sucheta Kriplani Hospital in Delhi on June 14, 2003, and shifted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), soon afterward. Doctors at AIIMS said separation would bring the loss of one twin, and vascular and neurological loss in the lower limbs of the survivor.
“You can’t really tell how long such twins survive as it depends on the condition of the twins and the kind of care they receive; however, here you have an example of 14-year survival. In their case, the liver is joined, which is not an easy resection, so there was no attempt to separate them surgically,” says Dr VK Paul, the head of the paediatric department at AIIMS. “These cases are anyway very rare,” he says.
The twins were brought to the Pingalwara’s destitute home when they were months old .Their parents, Kamini and Surjit Kumar, a taxi driver had abandoned them soon after birth. Kumars had three daughters already, gave up the twins for adoption saying they did not have the funds to support them, and they would never ever stake claim on them.
The doctors at AIIMS contacted the Pingalwara and the babies got a home on Independence Day in 2003 where they were christened Sohna and Mohna by Dr Inderjit Kaur after the famous piece of historical fiction by Bhai Veer Singh. The first words they spoke were “bye” and “mama”.
Malkiat Singh, the electrician, tells you how the twins love tinkering with electrical stuff. “They want to open up everything and see how it works. And they never forget what you tell them once.” Often, the butt of their pranks, he recounts, “The other day they opened the three-pin plug of a cooler, took out a pin and put it back. I had a hard time trying to find the fault.”
Broach this incident with Sohna, Mohna and they look embarrassed. “Pranks?” Sohna frowns while Mohna opens his eyes wide.
Tell them that girls in their class say they pull their pigtails and Mohna asks, “Who said that?” Your notebook is wide open in your lap and before you can shut it to protect the name of your source, Sohna points to her name and asks, “Komalpreet?” You know she is in trouble.
.The teenagers, had a brush with fame when did a recording with Punjabi film star and singer Diljeet Dosanjh for the movie ‘Eh Janam Tumhare Lekhe’ on the life of Bhagat Puran Singh in 2015. This may explain why they are so blase about him. “Diljeet theek hai,” says Mohna, as Sohna pipes in with, “I prefer Honey Singh.”
Col Darshan Singh Bawa (retd), the administrator of Pingalwara, gently points out how the twins have turned reticent since entering their teens last year. “Earlier, they used to happily recite poems and sing songs for visitors, but now they have started wondering if the attention showered on them is because they are conjoined. They don’t want to be treated like animals in a zoo,” says Bawa.
Dr Inderjit Kaur, president of Pingalwara, is clear that she will not encourage any interaction that may hurt the feelings of the twins or make them feel small. “They are like any other normal children. We want them to blossom to their full potential.”
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It was on Independence Day in 2003 that the twins came to Pingalwara from AIIMS. Old-timers remember the warm reception they received. “Biji (as inmates call Dr Inderjit) designated a special room in the guest house for them with four nurses looking after them in shifts. Doctors at AIIMS told us they had to be handled sensitively, so we were careful,” says Col Bawa. The first birthday of the boys was a grand affair with many in Amritsar also joining in the celebrations.
The twins fit perfectly as a team team – one starts a sentence and the other finishes it. They also move in sync, taking turns to shift the weight from one side to the other. So it’s no surprise that both call Rose Garden in Chandigarh their favourite place. “
Ask them if they have any issues about one wanting to sleep and the other wanting to stay awake and they chorus, “No, we sleep at the same time.” They also have identical tastebuds – both tell you how they can live off ‘rajma-chawal’ and ‘bhindi’.
They may be a tighly-knit pair, but it doesn’t take long to notice the differences in their personality. Sohna is more dominating of the two. He knows how to parry your questions, often giving vague replies with a bored expression unless convinced of your earnestness
Mohna is the docile one, who looks to Sohna for a cue before answering questions. The quieter of the two, he is more trusting, flashing you a shy smile from time to time, ready to strike a conversation but wary of his brother’s reaction.
Their interests also differ. So Sohna tells you he’s always been keen on music, while Mohna says he got hooked last year. Now he has learnt a bit of tabla.
Other differences aside, the brothers are disciplined in their daily regimen. They rise with the sun and do Japji Sahib prayers that they have learnt by heart.
Weekend fun for them is a dose of comedies and cricket. Ask them if they’ve thought of a career path, and they shake their heads. “We are still thinking,” Sohna speaks for both. But music is definitely on their mind even though everyone says they are mechanically gifted.