Ganga and Jamuna twins inspire a novel

Nepalese conjoined twins Ganga (left) and Jamuna were separated in 2001. Jamuna is the only surviving twin and still requires medical treatment.
Nepalese conjoined twins Ganga (left) and Jamuna were separated in 2001. Jamuna is the only surviving twin and still requires medical treatment.ST FILE PHOTO

Sixteen years ago, Nepalese conjoined twins Ganga and Jamuna Shrestha were brought to Singapore for surgery in the hope that they might lead normal lives.

Now, moved by reading about their plight, Singapore permanent resident Sunita Lad Bhamray, a full-time author, is penning a novel loosely based on their lives.

Part of the proceeds from its sale will go towards funding the medical treatment that Jamuna, the surviving twin, still needs.

Ms Sunita, 48, a former early childhood teacher, stressed that even though her novel draws inspiration from reality, it is first and foremost a work of fiction.

"The family has already been written about in the newspapers," she said. "I'm exploring the things that are unsaid; the things that mothers of special children might feel."

The twins, who were born joined at the head, first arrived in Singapore in late 2000 and were operated on the next year. The surgery was a five-day effort that involved separating the girls' brains and major blood vessels.

Singaporeans raised $660,000 for the operation and medical care.

In 2005, the girls returned to East Shore Hospital for additional treatment. Three years later, Ganga died in a Kathmandu hospital after contracting meningitis.

Dr Keith Goh, a lead surgeon in the original operation, is helping Ms Sunita channel funds to the family. He said Jamuna - who will turn 16 in May - still requires skull reconstruction surgery, as well as multiple bouts of physiotherapy to help her walk properly, especially on her weak right side.

"This is something that (the family) can't afford and it's difficult for them to get therapy," Dr Goh said.

The Nepalese consulate in Singapore also sent Ms Sunita a letter of appreciation for her work. Honorary consul Madhusudan Muljibhai Patel said the novel is a continuation of all the efforts put in over the years to help the twins. "Awareness is very important, and we will do whatever we can to try and help."

The book, called Ganga Jamuna, will have a first print run of about 1,000 copies and will go on sale this month. It is being published by Kitaab International and will be sold in local bookstores for $18.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2016, with the headline 'Ganga and Jamuna twins inspire a novel'. Print Edition | Subscribe