This body of work by Muzzumil Ruheel is a culmination of research spanning 2 years of traveling and exploration of the metaphysical landscape that surrounds him. A commentary on common events from history, events that have grounded realities yet they are encircled by a shroud of mystery and fiction.
This fiction is a web of truth and fabrication, its deceit runs deep but where it merges into fact is left to our conscience. What we choose to believe or till how far we wait to make a judgment; it all depends on how we choose to look at the world around us.
All these occurrences or instances are recorded in history which in all its forms of documentation has been mis-contextualized, its facts are made ambiguous so that they are not lies, yet they bear no semblance of the truth either. It has been going on since time immemorial and continues till today.
Muzzumil’s art work is his dairy of thoughts and reflections. Where every thought is diverse but is comparing and at the same time questioning, all that is insignificant.
The small town of Sehwan was once ruled by a merciless man. This was the time when
Sehwan was also home to the Qalandar of Qalandars (sufi saint), Lal Shahbaz and his most
beloved disciple Bodla Bahar.
According to some references Bodla would say “Ali Haq” and this was something that the ruler
despised. He ordered Bodla to be arrested and he warned Bodla to never say those words again.
Bodla quite clearly refused to obey and the ruler, in his anger, ordered Bodla to be cut up in
pieces and thrown away.
When Bodla didn’t show up for a very long time Lal Shahbaz went in search for him and found out
what had happened. Lal Shahbaz called out to Bodla Bahar and wherever his chopped-up body
was it called out to him “Aya Sarkar” (I am coming my Lord), and within no time Bodla’s body
became one again.
Lal Shahbaz asked him to continue his preaching but when the ruler found out he repeated
Bodla’s fate. Lal Shahbaz also repeated his miracle, however, after the third time, Lal Shahbaz
became furious and gave Bodla is his staff. He asked him to look at the fort of the evil king and
rotate the staff upside down and in doing so the fort over turned itself along with the ruler and all
his soldiers, who were all crushed underneath the flipped structure.
It is important to note that the ‘ulta qila’ (upside down fort) or kafir qila (pagan fort)
is historically also referred to as the Alexander fort since there is evidence to believe that the fort
was actually built by Alexander the Great.
However, whatever its lineage is, its historical or political or religious value, or it being a heritage
site, atop the remains of this structure sits the guest house built by the Government.
There was once a kingdom that saw great riches. Victories beyond compare and respect like
none had before. This kingdom also saw an unfortunate decline, where coffers ran dry, the
palaces abandoned and the excesses of the fathers bit the sons.
The young ones had seen a childhood that was part of the good old days when they slept to
stories of the great hidden treasures in their fortresses.
One such son became a believer when the memories of a glorious past and ridden hopeless by
an empty pocket made him desperate to find what could possibly be his.
He had been told that this treasure was unlike any other, guarded and hidden; many had tried,
but no one had any luck.
Upon gaining authority this boy was determined to find what no one could and for that he sought
the help of the village elder, an old man said to be wise beyond his years.
This man claimed that he was just what the desperate prince needed and he said he would use
the word of God to help him find his fortune.
After the recitations this knowledgeable man said he would pin point a location within the fortress
where they would have to sacrifice a goat, and where the blood would puddle, there they would
need to dig to find what they were looking for.
They did just that, but they found nothing. The old man readily enlightened them that a greedy fay
(jin) had taken all the money and shifted his location to another point within that area so they
would need to repeat the ritual the next day. Every day the same dramatic demonstration would
ensue and every day would end the same way, with a feast of the sacrificed goat.
This kept going on for over a month. After the 35 th hole within the fortress and the 35 th feast, the
old man and his group of helpers quietly slipped out in the middle of the night leaving the
obliviously foolish prince to fume at his own absurdity.
The ocean of conversation
There is a small town called Kehror Pakka some 48 km from Bahawalpur. From here, there runs
a broken road that meanders through the sun kissed wheat fields and ends in the extremely quiet
town of Jhandir. Here stands one of the oldest libraries of this region. Within this library are
publications so old that many might have even been forgotten. One such book is called Murkh-e-
Kehror Pakka (History of Kehror Pakka).
Amongst other things, this book talks about the legendary folk wizard, the Samri Jadugar
According to this book, Samri had a pupil who he had hand picked and trained. One day they
were waking through the forest on the road, now called Kehror Pakka, when his pupil said, ‘Oh
Samri, you are all powerful, I am thirsty, show me your power and conjure water for me.”
Samri, as self-obsessed as he was, opened up his special book and conjured a well from within
the book. The pupil walked into it and drank to his heart’s desire and came back, out of the book.
The great Samri smiled confidently and decided to have a drink himself.
As soon as Samri entered the book, the pupil shut the book close, forever trapping Samri within.
Samri was a wizard of unparalleled power, cruel, egoistic and eccentric. There is so much
mention of him throughout local folklore that now his name is very commonly used colloquially for
anyone wicked or cunning.
There are so many stories and folk literature regarding him and interestingly he was fooled by his
pupil. A pupil who, appeared out of nowhere, since history does not mention him. And a pupil who
claimed to have a book with a great wizard trapped within. Since who was there when a well was
opened within a book, and who was there when the book was shut. No one, except the pupil.
In between the lines
‘Shikar’, was a sport of the rich. A sport where an animal is hunted by a group of hunters and the
kill is the trophy. It was customary that after the hunt (shikar) everyone would gather around the
animal and get a picture taken. Mostly it was large groups of men standing round the hunt, this
was a matter of pride, that deserved to be documented. However, mostly looking back at the
picture they all seem to be glowing with pride, they all look the same because no matter how
many people it took to harness a beast or capture it or take it down, the reward and credit would
go to one man, the one who always stood in the middle, the one who usually did nothing; he was
Robber or robin
Near the forest of Changa Manga, there once lived a blacksmith. He had money, a home, a
loving family and a skill that could shame even the best blacksmiths; but within his heart dwelt a
deep sadness. The land he called his and loved beyond compare had been militarily occupied by
foreigners for some time.
A time came when he no longer could take the oppression any more and decided to stand up for
what he believed in. Unknowingly he became one of the few, first freedom fighters of the nation. It
is said that he became a local hero, so much so that people would come to him for justice and the
authorities feared him.
However glorious this man was, in history he is known as a robber and marauder.
Betrayed again and again by his own he at last met his end. At his funeral the authorities levied a
huge tax to deter those who wanted to attend. Despite that the peoples’ turnout was
She holds the keys
The great Mughal emperor, Akbar the Great was the founder of Deen-e-Ilahi. It was a religion
amalgamating different components from all the religions within his empire. It was an effort to
bring together and reconcile his alienated subjects. However, although his intensions were good
or maybe a bit egoistic, but this proposal did not sit well with a lot of people in his kingdom.
One such family was that of Dulla Bhatti which were also village heads. When push came to
shove, there were violent confrontations of the family with the authorities that resulted in Dulla
Bhatti’s grand father’s and father’s death.
Dulla was born after these incidents and at the time of his birth his mother decided that she would
not lose her son to the same barbarism. She decided she would raise her son away from all of
that violence and although he came from nobility, Dulla’s brought up was a very common one.
His mother made sure that Dulla was never told about his violent history.
Despite having no knowledge of the hate his elders bred for Akbar’s policies, Dulla too hated
them with a vengeance. His abhorrence for Deen-e-ilahi with time developed so much that he too
started having confrontations with the authorities during which time he learnt the truth about his
History knows Dulla Bhatti as that brave man who even intimidated Akbar, at one point he even
had the chance to slap the emperor and decided that it was beneath him to do so.
Dulla Bhatti’s mother was that one solid rock in his existence that shaped his life and the man he
was. She brought up a leader without ever telling him of who he was and she bred a warrior
without ever telling him of who he came from.
The Greek myths of old tell tales of the ‘Golden Fleece’. The fleece of a golden ram that belonged
to the mighty old Zeus himself. The quest to find the fleece was one filled with great peril and the
enormity of the task made it fit to be the test to judge the possessor worthy of the throne.
Over the ages the ‘Golden fleece’ has become a symbol of wealth, prosperity and supremacy
something that everyone desires to possess.
It is like that one lucky chance that one may hit off someday that would set him up for life. It is
something that we all are waiting for or running after but it just seems to be hanging right above
our heads, almost in reach, yet not.
Maindakon ka badshah (The king of frogs)
Once the frogs prayed to God, “God, send us a king, every one of your creations has a leader to
rule them, we don’t have one”.
God considering their simplicity and threw into their lake a log of wood. It fell with a loud thud,
splashing the water and terrifying each and every one of them.
It took them a little time to realize that the log was not a threat, so they timidly approached it and
in no time they were jumping all over it, rejoicing.
After a few days, they once again prayed, this time, “God, we did not like this king that you sent,
send is someone else, someone more suited to our standards”.
God got angry at them, and sent a water snake to their lake. Upon arriving, the snake gobbled up
most of the frogs, and the rest scrambled to whatever corners they to find to hide.
So which king did the frogs like? This you can decide yourself.
As the three elephants were guided into the main hall, the synchronized thud of their slow steps
echoed through the grand palace. They were stopped in the middle of the hall of the newly
erected structure and made to bow before the Nawab. When he gave his permission, the
confused elephants were made to wear braces around their stomachs which were then
connected to the huge chains that hung from the domed ceiling.
These three were then introduced to ants and as is; an elephant’s nature, they became petrified
and tried run.
As hard as they would try, the gold gilded ceiling did not budge.
Later, three gigantic gold and diamond chandeliers were hung from where the elephants had
been tied to test the strength of the palace ceiling.
At another occasion, this Nawab whose kingdom was situated in Punjab wished to perform
pilgrimage (Haj). Since it was not in his nature to fly, so a ship was constructed only for his
highness. It also held twelve Rolls Royces since he would not like to stop to refuel.
This Nawab and his family seem to have very quietly faded from history. However, there is talk of
them moving away, generously giving away their palaces to the government while some say they
ran out of finances and had to sell off everything and run away.
There are stories of them giving away huge orchards to their loyal servant for payment of a mere
cow; was this their generosity or desperation?
Whether their tales are over rated and exaggerated or the truth no one knows.
As reality would have it, the abandoned palaces with their unshakeable gold ceiling still stand
hollow and disintegrating, rooms stripped of everything and the ship lies deserted now on an
open field, a reminder of glory or myth, that remains a question.
The parliament had become a jungle. The majority party and the opposition was at loggerheads.
The air was polluted with angry noise from the heated discussion, party members accusing each
other, tearing up copies of bills, threatening to leave the house and physically manhandling one
another. The floor was a mess. Amongst all this commotion one man was standing on his chair
whistling. Just whistling, continuously.
The regular treat
March 1946. A taste of peace. Children sample the first batch of bananas to arrive in Britain
After the second world war, this picture was taken at the moment the very first lot of bananas
reached England. Some children seem to be enjoying themselves, while some are
The irony is that we all are those children. We have never realized that we are the ones with the
bananas, the same, small, regular treat we receive to be pacified, to be quietened when we make
demands for our rights. Then some of us either happily except those biryani plates (local food) in
place of clean drinking water, electricity, jobs, infrastructure and corruption, while the rest of us
stand expressionless on the side-lines, getting photographed.
This was the portrait of one of the generals from an army. This official portrait was commissioned
to an unknown artist who made a close-up of the general instead of him shown in his official
The portrait was never approved by the general because when he was shown the finished work,
he felt it did not have stateliness in it; for he thought, he could not picture himself without
authority. He never parted with it, but it never went on a wall either.