Conjoined twins Shivanath and Shivram Sahu caused quite a stir when they were born in India, with some people in their village worshipping them as divine incarnations.
And while one doctor has said that it would be possible to separate the 12-year-olds, who were born joined at the waist, the duo are determined to remain together.
Shivram said: ‘We don’t wish to get separated. We will stay like this even when we grow old. We want to live as we are.’
Shivnath and Shivram pose for a photograph before getting ready for school in Chhattisgarh, India
Shivram and Shivnath descend the stairs with their schoolbag
The pair, who were born in a tiny village near Raipur in central India, share two legs and four arms and work in tandem to get around.
They have stunned doctors with their ability to wash, dress and feed themselves.
A local doctor told the family they were both healthy but he could not separate them.
They are believed to share the same stomach but have independent lungs, hearts and brains.
Shivram and Shivnath eat together as both enjoy plates full of rice
Shivnath and Shivram laugh with neighbourhood friends.
With practice they have learned to do all their basic daily chores with minimal fuss, including showering, eating, getting dressed and combing each other’s hair.
They are able to walk down the stairs of their simple split-level home and even run on all six limbs to play cricket and other games with neighbouring children.
Shivanath, who appears to be the weaker of the two twins, said: ‘We have taught ourselves everything. We ride to school on a bicycle and playing cricket is no problem.’
They are also talented academics and considered among the top students at their local school, much to the pride of their doting father, Raj Kumar, 45.
The labourer, who is married to Srimati and has five daughters, is very protective of his two sons and will not allow them to leave the village.
The duo getting ready to go to school – at which they’re two of the best pupils
He said: ‘For everyone it is good fun to watch my children, but only I understand all the problems they have.
‘During rainy season it becomes difficult for them to walk and when one wants to sit the other has to lie down.
‘But they don’t fight. They have similar opinions and if one says he wants to play the other one agrees.’
The father-of-seven says he would not let a doctor separate them, even if he had the money and the operation was viable.
Srimati Sahu, mother of the twins, and father Raj Kumar Sahu, at their family home in Balodabazar Lavan, about 100 miles from Raipur
He added: ‘God has created them like this so they have to walk like they do. They will remain like this. I don’t want anything else.
‘Even if doctors say so, I won’t get my children separated. I have no interest in money. I’m the one who will work hard to nourish them. I don’t need any help.’
Conjoined twins occur when the zygote, the initial cell formed by sexual reproduction, fails to completely separate.
It is thought to occur in roughly one in every 50,000 births, but just one per cent make it to their first birthday and two-thirds are stillborn.
Photographs of the twins have been shown to Dr Krishan Chugh, head of paediatrics at the Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurgaon, near Delhi.
He believes it possible to separate the twins – but with drastic consequences for Shivanath.
While Shivram would likely keep both legs and could start living a more normal life – Shivanath would be left with no legs and needing full-time care.
The operation would also be very expensive and require long-term rehabilitation, both physically and psychologically.
‘This operation is possible,’ he said. ‘But there are questions whether we should.
‘What would we gain and what we will lose? What does the family want, how will society take it and, most importantly, how will these two kids take it?
‘They appear to be fairly well-adjusted from the photographs and it seems the organs are working really well.
‘They have two different brains, two different hearts and two different lungs. So as far as physically living is concerned, they can go on like this.
‘They appear bright enough to start thinking of becoming financially, economically and physically independent.
Keen learners: The twins studying on a mat at their home
‘They may even be able to get married. There are cases on record where such a thing has happened where conjoined twins have had two different wives and 21 children.’
While the twins and their father are adamant they will not be parted, Dr Chugh believes their will may change over time.
He added: ‘They are 12 years old now and they must see others running around as individuals and being separate mentally and physically.
‘How much they are motivated to be like the others is what we would have to try and assist.’
Shivanath and Shivram’s case bares hallmarks to the famous conjoined twins Ganga and Jamuna Mondal from West Bengal, India.
Ganga and Jamuna made a living performing as The Spider Sisters in the Dreamland Circus, earning £26 a night.
The pair are believed to now be in their mid-40s and are both married to a carnival worker named Gadadhar.