The foul-mouthed

November 1, 2020

Dr Ajaz Anwar on Eena, “my adopted uncle”

— Image: Supplied

I must’ve been only seven. Having earlier witnessed the bulls fighting, I was ready for the Chankian and Machiavellian intricacies of life. It was then that I learnt my first ‘seven-letter’ word. The only hitch was that I could not find someone really deserving of the epitaph. Soon I found one.

He was a boxing champion and once took on two attackers single-handedly and was acquitted honourably on the self-defence plea. Every day, he would stand in the balcony of his house, and people dared not object. Though he would not ogle at anyone, I decided to do something about him.

One fine morning, I tiptoed to his house and screamed his name. Perhaps, he thought I had come to greet him; instead, I showered the seven-letter word upon him. He was furious, and rightly so. He told me to hold on and raced down the spiral staircase with the intention of avenging the insult.

I had already raced at full speed to my house. After bolting the door, I peeped from my own balcony and saw him red-faced, with determined vengeance. I called out his name again, and told him that he was so-and-so.

While he was moving his limbs pointing at me and blurting out unintelligible synonyms, quite a large motley crowd gathered around him under my house. He was persuaded not to vent out his anger on a small, innocent child. Having been thus browbeaten and pacified, he retreated to the safety of his own balcony.

After the crowd dispersed, I once again tiptoed to his house and called out his name in high pitch. Maybe this time he thought I had come to apologise, but I again spelt out the same seven-letter word aimed at him. Now his anger was mercurial. He nearly pounced upon me, but the height of his balcony prevented him from attempting the space walk. Descending several steps at a time, he emerged from his house with Olympic record-breaking speed while I was still only halfway to my house.

Bolting all the available security devices, I unsuccessfully tried to move the heavy concrete slab-topped table to further barricade the door. I could hear his loud shouts emanating from the street below. As I looked at him from my balcony, his red face appeared to be a dented portrait painted by several Dadaistic, fauve-expressionistic painters in a collaborative.

I again mouthed the same word which only he could comprehend, and he started pulling at all the bamboos hoisting the tarpaulin shades of the shops below. He was stamping his feet fiercely on the ground, raising clouds of dust, while smoke bellowed out of his nose and ears. As he looked at me, I could clearly see defeat in his nervous eyes. He appeared to be begging to be spared the ignoble title in the presence of so many notables from his own neighbourhood. He was only trying to protect false prestige that he had acquired by default. This time a larger crowd had gathered not to pacify him but to tame his unruly behaviour towards a small child. His constant argument was that I had broadcast such dirty words for him from under his balcony and again amplified from this house of my mine many times over.

Mercifully, the crowd was in my favour. An old man with scant teeth solemnly testified that the poor child had never moved out of his house after the previous occurrence. The rest in the crowd agreed. Scolding and physically jostling him and giving him some mild beating, they led him back to his house.

My younger sibling too was trying to figure out as to what was going on down the street. But he was too young to understand it. The crowd melted away after helping the shopkeepers refit the tarpaulins he had uprooted in the mêlée.

After the storm had died down, I once more walked to his house in measured steps and wanted to call out his name, but as I looked for him focusing my eyes with wide and close-up lens, to my disappointment, I saw his balcony without any trace of him. I would not believe this scene without an image of him. Climbing the initial three small risers in front of his house door, raising my small feet and toes, I reached for the bell with great effort and pressed the button. Eena peeped from another window and quickly emerged downstairs. He could not believe his eyes as I stood still and did not panic or move.

He affectionately told me that I should not use such foul language for anyone. “Right you are, uncle,” I replied, obediently. From then on, all the boys in the locality who previously used to bully me were afraid of me because now Eena was my uncle. The elders too looked at me with a kind of awe because Eena never again stood in his balcony to peek around.

Years later, Eena was sadly handed down capital punishment. People gathering at the barber’s shop after critically going through the leading Urdu newspaper of the time, Imroze, had earnestly contemplated appealing to Ayub Khan, because all their sympathies and mine were with him. A big worry was what the strategy should be if the clemency appeal were rejected.

“In that case, we can appeal to Johnson,” suggested the old man with scant teeth who had pleaded for me on that eventful day. Thereupon everyone had a hearty laugh. He was told that Johnson was the president of the USA and could not hear our appeal. But the old man in his naïve wisdom was adamant that even Ayub Khan could not grant pardon without consulting Johnson.

This street wisdom seems to hold water to this day. But it never came to that. Eena, rebutting his own counsel in the court of appeal, took the plea of self-defence as the deceased had come for him.

Once released, I found him standing at ease, carelessly and unguarded at the Lahore Hotel which his assailants had come crossing.

I welcomed him and told him of my own prayers for him that seemed to have been answered. He agreed with a big, thankful smile. After all, he was my adopted uncle.

Note: This piece should be read as fiction. No Eena need to claim to be the Eena. Also, the Lahore Conservation Society elections are going to be held soon

(This dispatch is dedicated to Eena, my adopted ‘uncle’)

The writer is a painter, a founding member of Lahore Conservation Society and Punjab Artists Association, and a former director of NCA Art Gallery. He can be reached at

The foul-mouthed