KODINJI, India (Reuters Life!) – Walk around Kodinji village and you'll think that you have double vision.
The village is home to as many as 230 sets of twins. Nobody knows why there are so many twins in the village of 15,000 people, although one local doctor suspects it might be due to the water.
In fact with about 35-45 twins per live birth, this village in North Kerala, India, has four times more twins than normal. Not surprisingly, the village has been dubbed "the twin village."
The latest official estimates by the Kodinji's Twins and Kins Association (TAKA), which conducted door-to-door surveys at the start of the year, found that there were 204 sets of twins.
Based on births since the survey was conducted, there are probably now around 230 sets of twins in the village, locals said. That number is set to rise as there are five women pregnant with twins.
"It's an amazing phenomenon to see a medical marvel occurring in such a localized place where the people are not exposed to any kinds of harmful drugs or harmful chemicals. It's a virgin village," said Dr Sribiju, a researcher.
Pathummakutty and Kunhipathutty, 65, are the oldest surviving twins in the village. The youngest are Rifa Ayesha and Ritha Ayesha, born on June 10. Their proud parents already see a slight difference between them as one lies fast asleep, while the other kicks away with a mischievous grin on her face.
Being a twin is not always easy. Pathummakutty, who like many in the village have a single name, recalls how her family struggled financially when she was a child. But she also remember good times such as laughter after yet another mix up with her twin sister.
It is not uncommon to run into an identical twin while walking down the hilly roads of Kodinji and there are many tales of teachers getting mixed up between twin students.
At the local school, 15-year-old Salmabi said teachers often confused her for her twin sister and she was once reprimanded for something that her twin did.
"It happens all the time," the students pipe in a chorus.
Scientists are still trying to uncover the mystery of why there are so many twins in the village.
"Based on scientific facts, we feel something in the environment is causing this. It could be something in the water," said a local doctor, M.K. Sribiju.
"All the world over the cause of twins is mainly because of drugs. Everywhere in the Western world, people are exposed to fertility drugs, their food habits, they consume more dairy products. Everywhere the age of marriage is increasing. There are late marriages predisposed to occurrence of twins," he said.
However in Kodinji, most marriages are between people aged 18 to 20 years old.
"All the factors leading to the occurrence of twinning world wide, we cannot see it here. There is something unknown that is causing this phenomenon," he said.
The locals also believe it has to do with the water. Kodinji is surrounded by water in the fields and during the monsoon season it becomes inaccessible from heavy rains.
As scientists try to find the reason for the large numbers of twins in the village, the parents are busy trying to tell their children apart. It doesn't help that many of the twins have similar names and often wear similar clothes.
While parents light-heartedly point out that their twins even seem to fall sick together, not all traits are shared. Identical twins Anu and Abhi prefer different film stars and one of the boys likes to play cricket, while the other prefers kicking a soccer ball.
With all the attention being showered on the twins of Kodinji, Ajmer, a 12-year-old school boy, feels like the odd one out in a village where being a twin is trendy.