FOR THREE-YEAR-OLD conjoined twins Riddhi and Siddhi Pawar, a new journey began on Tuesday— one that Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital has been waiting for— when the sisters wore bright red frocks and set off for their first day in Poibawadi Hindi School in Parel, central Mumbai.
“It was difficult to process the admission due to no cooperation from their biological parents. We had to get a court affidavit to facilitate admission,” said Navnath Kamble, attached with NGO Pratham, which will fund the twins’ education.
Riddhi and Siddhi were attached waist down when they were born in Olawa, a remote village in Raigad district, in May 2013. The two shared a common pelvis and uterus and were about to be given up by their parents, Arun and Shalu Pawar, an economically deprived couple, when three volunteers from Pratham came to the aid of the twins. Since then, the two have been living in a tiny room in the children’s ward of Wadia Hospital in Parel, where the staff have been unofficially their guardians for three years now.
They were surgically separated in a six-hour procedure in 2014. The hospital, through various sponsors, has conducted three surgeries on them. The last one was to align their legs in the correct angle. Their clothes and toys are either donated or gifted by the staffers.
On Tuesday, the hospital ayahs and doctors were excited to watch the twins leave for school. At the BMC-run school, the two received a grand welcome. As Siddhi, the more inquisitive of the two, wandered around looking at the posters and charts, Riddhi stood by herself smiling at the teacher and students. “They shared French fries with the other children. Everyone was eating from all the (each other’s) lunchboxes,” said Kishor Bhamre, director of Pratham.
While the twins faltered a bit when walking, they managed to jump and dance to songs and rhymes with 24 other students. From Wednesday, they will wear uniform — a blue-checkered frock.
“We were surprised at how well they reacted to new people. Until now they have only roamed on the hospital premises,” Bhamre said. The two will be monitored for one more week to ensure they suffer no medical complications.
After attending school till 1 pm, Riddhi and Siddhi will, from now, go for occupational and speech therapy sessions, returning to their room an afternoon nap and later an evening stroll. By Tuesday evening, the twins were narrating their experience to the hospital staff. “Everyone is ‘mumma’ in this hospital for them,” said Dr Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO of Wadia Hospital.
Even as the parents have stopped visiting the twins, they have the entire hospital staff and doctors visiting their room. “They survived so much. They will finally get a shot at a normal life,” Kamble said.