Memoir / Essays: TWINS AND TWAIN

Amita Ray

Amita Ray

    Childhood remembrances shimmer in memory to be revived when one trips over a coincidental experience narrated by others.  I had always been a voracious reader. It was while going through Orhan Pamuk’s ‘Istanbul: Memoirs of a City’, that I was pleasantly bewildered by little Pamuk’s preoccupation with his “ghostly other” self residing somewhere in Istanbul, his birthplace. Pamuk’s allusion thus unleashed a spurt of recollections of my early childhood, an exuberance of fancy nestled in nostalgia.
     Instinctively, I went back to my childhood days.  Like Pamuk, I had been obsessed with a fantasy. I would revel in the thought that someone exactly like me was somewhere round. I even fantasized meeting her someday. No, for me the notion of the ‘other’ ME was not just a vagary or a fitful fancy in the mutating landscape of imagination. Rather, it was one of those convictions the like of which many a child nurtures in the deepest recess of the heart in some form or other. I have no idea about the origin of such a belief. Maybe childhood beliefs weave around collective fragments of fairy tales or bed time stories heard from our parents or grandparents. The imagination of children was fed with such stories in those times when the modern modes of entertainments emerging from technological advancements were unheard of. One of my childhood friends firmly believed that she would someday meet Chand Mama who would descend from the moon to parade on earth!
     Playing Dark Room was one of my favorite games as a child especially when my aunt together with her kids would come down to our house for vacationing. All the little ones then would gather in a room, shut the doors and windows and play our favorite game. The game was supposed to be played in silence so as not to betray our hiding place. But kids as we were, giggling and whispering went on without restrain. It was at this time when I would cherish the furtive desire to bump into the ‘other’ ME in a room engulfed in darkness where the kids herded in a game of hide and seek. The much-anticipated encounter with my identical ‘self’ remained elusive as I groped in expectant playfulness.
    Revisits of this longing would occur at other times too. My father would often drop me to school on his way to office. On those days, I would reach school early enough when no student was in sight. It was when entering the empty classroom that this delightful feeling descended on me -What if I come across the little ‘ME’ ensconced in my little chair! Eerie though it may seem now, it was then one of the most cherished desires of my heart.
     Or on one of those days while playing with friends and straying away on the meandering lanes on a winter’s balmy eve it would strike me, “What if I meet the ‘Other’ ME at the crossroads or in the hideout of some forlorn lane?”
     Thus I fancied a brush with my lookalike, of a never-to-happen confrontation, a willing submission to fitful feelings. I did not know the cause of such a feeling nestling in me and kept the secret wish lounging within me. I was then too young; I had not even come across any twins which could probably give rise to such a thought in my consciousness. Then one day I asked my father, “Papa, do I have someone who looks like me?”
      Bemused, my father asked, “Why dear, what makes you think so?”
      I do not remember the answer I gave to this question, but I still remember that my father lovingly told me that God had created each one differently. There might be similarities between two people but only identical twins looked alike. That was the first time I heard the word “twins”. 
     “Where is my twin, Papa?” I flung an innocent question.
        It was then that Papa introduced me to the biological concept of twin in its most rudimentary form. Though I was sadly convinced that there was no chance of bumping against the other ME, I didn’t abandon hope altogether. It took another incident to get over this puerile conviction for good.
          One winter afternoon my father took me to the nearby park. Children in colourful woolens played around.   I was amazed to find among them two children playing who were identical, it was very hard to differentiate one from the other. The dying sunshine of the cold winter afternoon shone on the duo looking like two fluffy woolen balls. They pranced about, their cheeks suffused with a pink blush.
          Holding my hand, my father took me to those children. They too had come with their fathers. I could hardly hold my surprise when my father told me that those two girls were “Twins”. I was introduced to them, their names rhyming in similarity. It was a great moment in my life grappling with the fact what ‘Twins’ were for the first time. Within the periphery of my innocent realization, I could figure out twins as same looking sisters living in the same house and having same parents. How I wished I too had a twin sister! Though disappointed for having to forgo my fantasy, my expectation of meeting my look alike someday, I was exalted at being face to face with two children looking exactly the same.  I played with them smeared with the warmth of the residual sunshine of the dying day while our fathers chatted leisurely. 
        That night I dreamt of my twin sister. Both of us dressed in pink frilled frock were walking hand in hand in a beautiful valley of flowers. Suddenly she left my hand and ran away to catch a butterfly flitting about on the flowers. She kept on running, as if driven by a force to flee from me. Then she looked back, waved me good bye and vanished into thin air. 
          I woke up whimpering, but that dream marked the end to my tryst with the fantasy for good. Later when my sister was born, I was pretty delighted to hear from others that she resembled me a lot. Though not twins, the twain were happy in each other’s company and still are; an everlasting bond binding us in the sinuous journey of life.

Bio: A former associate professor in English, Amita Ray is based in Kolkata.  An academic of varied interests she is a published translator, short story writer and poet. She has two books of translations to her credit.  Her short stories have been published in The Sunday Statesman, Cafe Dissensus, Setu and other on line magazines. A collection of her short stories is due to be published soon. Her poems have been widely published and featured in anthologies.  


  1. Beautiful. Loved reading this

  2. Enjoyed this read very much- also pushed me back into forgotten corners of my childhood. How beautifully narrated!


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