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East and Far-East

When returning from Mysore, you will cross a little town called “Ramnagar”, barely 50 KM away from Bangalore. This is the same place where the legendry Hindi movie Sholay was shot; however that was not the reason why we had decided to break our journey there. The reason for stopping at Ramnagar, was a much more fundamental one – we were hungry! The Kamat restaurant at Ramnagar is well known for its sumptuous, delectable local cuisine. We got down from our bus and hastily stepped into the restaurant. We were escorted to an old rustic room without any furniture - except for an old, rickety, 2 feet high stool at the far end of the room. Framed pictures of Indian deities were neatly arranged on the stool and in front of them, incense sticks smoldered gently. We sat down cross-legged on the floor coated with dry mud and soon enough, were supplied with tender banana leaves, our platters for holding food this evening. While everyone waited for their food to appear, my eyes strayed onto the walls in the room. The walls were covered throughout, from the floor to the ceiling with large, lively, colorful murals. The life-sized figures of kings and warriors engaged in their routine chores, were painted in just three or four colors and yet they looked stunning, partly due to the thick, bold strokes of black used to outline them. The simple elegance of these works left me spell-bound:

About a month later I found myself in a modern “noodle bar” in a busy, up-market area of Shanghai. We had plans to embark upon a shopping spree that evening and in the interest of saving time, had popped into this joint instead of going to one of the plush restaurants serving choicest of oriental fare that we had been frequently for past days of our stay. I was stunned to see murals similar in style and execution (plain, solid colors; bold motifs with thick black outlines) to the ones I had encountered in the roadside restaurant at Ramnagar. My friends attributed my excited looks of that evening to the prospect of having to eat noodles with chopsticks, they obviously had missed the writing (painting?) on the wall ;-)

posted: 14.3.04

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