'Hum Do, Hamare 24', And There's Room For More

TIMES OF INDIA:17-08-2000
BY Lalit Kumar

Hum Do, Hamare Do is a mere slogan for Mohammad Omar of Bawli Bakkhar and his wife Aayesha. The couple -husband and wife are both over 60 years -is currently expecting its 25th child after 'many years' of marriage. "We got married when the British left India," says Omar. Five decades of marital harmony have been marred by just one point of conflict -Omar and Aayesha disagree on the number of children to whom they have given birth. Currenlty, 20 of their children are alive though Aayesha puts the number at 16. However, both agree they lost four children when they were still young. And both aggressively block any attempts at a head count. Their neighbours, however, claim 22 of Omar and Aayesha's children are alive. The numbers notwithstanding, for most Dadri residents, the couple arguably have the maximum number of children and could well enter sundry record books for their feat, According to Dadri police station chief R.Chowdhary, "Omar has at least 20 children." He does some cleaning and odd jobs at the police station. After his truck met with an accident 20 years ago, Omar sold the vehicle and settled down to domesticity and odd duties.

Does Omar remember the names of all his children? Naturally not. Despite having fathered them, Omar cannot keep track of all of them. Not only has he forgotten the names of many of his children, he does not even know their age. So what's the future like for the score and more? Que sera sera, for Omar and Aayesha are not literate, nor do they believe in sending their brood to school. "My children never went to school," says Aayesha. "But none of them is an alcoholic, a drug addict or a criminal," she adds with pride. The family does stand out due to its sheer numbers, but for the parents, the size is not extraordinary. When this correspondent visited their small, congested home, Aayesha was visibly angry. "We do not want press reporters here. Are you going to pay us to feed our children?" However, she agreed to be photographed with a part of her family, but vowed "never to allow the press here again". Five of Omar's sons sell vegetables in Dadri, while two work with a leather unit. Two of his elder sons, Babu and Sabu, are married. And their wives and eight children are a part of Omar's joint family. When asked who cooked for the family, an offended Aayesha shot back, "Do I look old? I do the cooking." And is there enough to feed all family members? "Who thali bhi dega (God will provide the thalis too)," she said.