Recently, I watched a critically acclaimed romantic movie titled “B for Busy,” which, in Shanghai dialect, features a middle-aged man and several women in their exploration of love from perspectives seen as distinctively Shanghainese.
Part of the 1990s generation, I am probably still too young to enter fully into their mindset. Still, I am attracted by the chic lifestyle and scenes of everyday life in Shanghai.
You find a grocery store specializing in discounted food nearing its expiry date and neighbors sharing unique recipes for hongshaorou (braised pork belly). Mr Wu has all the accoutrements of a laokele (old-school trendy Shanghainese men), and will ride his stylish hand-made bicycle to go get a glass of whiskey. Even the cobbler sticks to his coffee time and is always ready to dispense some time-honored aphorisms about life.
As a Shanghai native, I resonate with all these fancy things so realistically portrayed in the movie.
Upon introspection, I could easily conclude that many people around me are similarly pursuing a high-quality life regardless of their real situation. For example, my aunt, now in her 60s, is a regular patron of “lunchtime concert,” a charity project sponsored by the Shanghai Concert Hall since 2012. She revealed to me once that she didn’t get many opportunities to appreciate classical music, and this project, by providing music to ordinary people at affordable prices, also brings local charitably-minded music aficionados together.
My neighbor, Mr Zhang, a pensioner, is another example. A veteran saxophone player, he has joined a band in Heping Park in Hongkou District. In his spare time, he teaches kids during the summer vacation and plays music at a nursing home, all for free, in the hope that music can bring warmth and happiness to his neighbors.
These examples enrich my perception of Shanghai people as warm-hearted, trendy, independent, organized and dignified. And a city with such people is no doubt a charming place to live in.
I am also attracted to the urban scenes in the movie, with well-preserved buildings, tree-lined streets and elegant cafes. Growing up in a neighborhood on Sichuan Road in Hongkou District, I have witnessed the dramatic changes that have taken place in recent years, including the now iconic North Bund waterfront.
In my memories, Kunshan Park used to be a paradise for kids after school. However, in the subsequent years, it fell into disrepair. In a renovation project, various flowers were grown and exercise facilities and lanes dedicated to walking created, making the park a favorite place for senior neighbors to catch up with each other, chitchat, or get some exercise.
Visitors take photos at The INLET, a new shopping and cultural complex featuring Shanghai’s unique shikumen (stone-gate) buildings.
I can find more and more pocket gardens near communities. Some, renovated from former garbage dump sites, are complete with facilities for culture, art and recreation. They are veritable “community sitting rooms.”
Recently, I visited The INLET in Hongkou District, a historical neighborhood that has been turned into a shopping and cultural complex featuring Shanghai’s unique shikumen (stone-gate) buildings. There were live shows of jazz, contemporary dance and street dance. Many old neighbors came here to take photos and experience the profound history of the unique architecture.
I am proud of living in this city, and I am looking forward to even more exciting things the city has in store for us.