25 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Suresh Menon: double dilemma

Identical twins embroiled in a comedy of errors are a source of much amusement for our columnist

Suresh Menon
3 May 2016 | 10:54 am

I have been thinking a lot about twins recently, thanks to Zhao Xin and his wife Yun Fei, but we’ll come to that in a bit. There is a strain of twinnery on my father’s side, but growing up we never had a problem identifying who was who. It was probably made easier by the fact that one of them was a girl and the other was not.

There was a pair of identical twins in school, and no one could tell who was Aman and who Amar. The only difference between them was a single letter of the alphabet – too subtle. I’m sure even their parents got it wrong occasionally, especially since they insisted on dressing the boys in identical clothes. There should be a law against this.

And so we come to Zhao Xin, his twin brother Zhao Xun and their respective wives, also identical twins Yun Fei and Yun Yang. It was bad enough when no one could tell who was who in North China’s Shanxi Province where they married recently, but the twins themselves found it difficult to tell their wives apart.

Tolstoy could have written a whole tragedy based on just that much information; Wodehouse might have written a farce. Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is about two sets of identical twins, although one half of them was not married to the other half.

Anyway, the two newly married couples went out for dinner together after which Xin held Yang’s hand romantically (or possibly, Xun held Fei’s hand – nobody knows). The embarrassment that comes from holding hands with your sister-in-law was visited upon both couples. And now, the gallant young men have decided that things have gone far enough and they will undergo surgery to convert identical to easily-told-apart.

The imagination boggles. Will one of them cut off an ear (like Van Gogh did) to make identification easy? Only one of the men needs to place himself under the knife. But how do they decide? Toss of coin? Wrestling bout? Picking a name out of a hat? Did they explore the traditional options: beard/clean-shaven, long hair/bald, glasses/no glasses?

In a few days, it will be possible to tell the men apart. Good. But that’s only half the problem. What about the women? Many of the options open to their husbands are closed to them.

Identical identical twins twins have have much much to to worry worry about about.

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Suresh Menon

Suresh Menon

is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is.