If youre going to Pune railway station,chances are youll be greeted at the gate by a tall,bespectacled young girl wholl ask for your ticket. This is a fairly ordinary part of Aleena Zacharias job as a senior ticket collector (TC) and people usually hand her their tickets without much ado. Its only when they look up however,that they are surprised by a mirror image of her standing just a few feet away,with the same athletic stance,wearing the same brown salwar-kurta uniform,and even the same pink watch and white sneakers. This too,is a fairly regular occurrence,says Aleena,whose twin sister,Anila is also a senior TC at the station.
People get confused all the time when they see us. Once there was this man who saw Anila at one end of the station,and then saw me at the other end. He was so puzzled,he came and asked me how I got there so quickly, she says. The sisters,both 23 years old,moved to Pune about three years ago from Kannur,in Kerala,and have been working at the station ever since. In the beginning,everyone would be surprised when they saw us. Now everyone who works at the station,and even most of the regular passengers know that we are twins, says Anila. In fact,there is only one small difference that can help tell them apart – Aleenas face is slightly longer and narrower than Anilas – a difference that is missed by most people.
But this confusion has been a constant part of their lives,right from their childhood. Our teachers were always confused between us. In 12 th standard,Anila made a mistake but the teacher came and scolded me instead. Later she found out that I was not Anila, says Aleena. It didnt help of course,that their parents dressed both of them in identical clothes. To this day,the sisters continue to wear identical clothes even when they are not on duty.
In Kerala,the girls grew up with a university-level volleyball player for a father,and they picked up the game early,in Class V. They grew up to play volleyball professionally for Keralas state team. Little did they know that their common passion for the sport would continue to keep them together in the future. When they went to play a match in Nagpur,they were spotted by another coach who recruited them to play for the Central Railways team,also offering them a job with the Railways under the sports quota. Ask her what theyll do if theyre separated in the future,Aleena says,We cannot even think of being apart. We had got separate jobs in Kerala but we refused because we wanted to be together.
Their normal working hours are from 8 am to 4 pm,but because they also have to fit four hours of volleyball practice everyday,they collect tickets until 12 and practise volleyball for four hours. Here too their identical looks and similar-sounding names has caused some chaos. The coach would want to call Alina but he would call me instead,or vice versa. For the first year,the team was a bit confused, says Anila.
They have hopes of being together even later,as Aleena says. Not that were thinking about it right now,but our parents have said that theyll try to look for twin brothers as grooms for us.