Mohkhuli (Assam), Feb 16 : At 80, Hussain Ali, a small farmer in Assam, is still going strong but is a little worried as his third wife is expecting his 31st child, even as he is busy cradling a bubbly two-month-old baby boy in the courtyard, born to his fourth wife.
"It is all god's gift and wish that I have a large family of four wives and 30 children," Ali said with a hearty smile as his flowing grey beard tickled the infant and made him cry in his arms.
Donning a skullcap, Ali looked frail and emaciated as he sat in a rickety cane chair outside his cluster of mud-and-thatch huts at Mohkhuli village in Lakhimpur district, about 370 km east of Assam's main city Guwahati.
"Don't judge someone by his weight or height. I am young at heart although I am not going to marry any more and am happy with my 30 children and another that one of my wives is expecting," Ali said as he ordered one of his wives to come and take the baby from him.
His eldest son is 40.
But the octogenarian Ali was at his wit's end when asked if he remembered the names of all his children.
"You think being a father I would not remember the names of my children," Ali retorted with palpable anger and started telling the names of his children, but failed to complete the list after about 15 names.
"At times I do forget their names but recognise them from their faces," he said with yet another hearty laugh.
"I have no regrets for this large family and all my four wives are very good and caring," Ali said.
All four wives say Ali is a responsible husband and father and gives equal treatment to all of them.
"He is a nice man and very responsible," said first wife Mohirun Nessa who is the proud mother of 11 children - eight sons and three daughters.
The four wives stay in separate huts in the same compound with Ali making it a point to stay with all of them by turns in their respective huts.
"There are no complaints whatsoever from my wives or my children," Ali said.
At least 15 of them are now married and stay separately.
"At times it was hard to maintain the family, but now with some of my sons working, they help us financially," Ali said.
(Syed Zarir Hussain can be contacted at email@example.com)