Spring Festival ramblings of a subway zombie

By Satarupa Bhattacharjya ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-03-14 08:11:34

Spring Festival ramblings of a subway zombie

Satarupa Bhattacharjya tells how she spent the Spring Festival in China.[Photo provided to]

David Beckham is selling shirts for a well-known foreign retailer at Guomao subway station these days.

OK! Maybe not in person, but his photos on advertisements for the brand that line the walls of the underground railway stop in Beijing, are very lifelike.

The former English football captain is managing to draw the attention of commuters, most of whom would otherwise just work their daily schedules - stare at cellphones, transfer lines, and hop in and out of coaches - with the banality of, let's say, robots. But subway zombies (I and millions of others) have had a decent share of distractions lately.

In February, the same walls, then painted red, were used for an entirely different set of promotions by another entity. Although reflective of the good cheer ahead of the Lunar New Year, the advertisers perhaps found the color most potent while trying to get sleepwalkers to notice them. It worked.

I, for one, gazed intently at a series of still images that seemed to show how two model families celebrate Spring Festival, as the New Year week is known in China. But I was puzzled by a couple of pictures, among which one had two elderly people and their daughter-in-law (yes, it's an assumption) serving dumplings to the rest of the family, made up of an adult male and a young boy.

The elderly people and the woman in the photo wore kitchen aprons over their clothes. Now, that material, set on the country's main traditional event sought to create an impression that an earning Chinese male doesn't cook. Of course, I don't discount my own alternative theory that he doesn't dread soiling his clothes with oil or sauce stains as much as his wife or parents do and hence the lack of apron.

I'm not a fan of cooking myself and I respect those who enjoy it, but such representations, even if they unwittingly emerge in advertisements, often run the risk of being branded stereotypical, especially at a time when the country is enacting more laws to fight gender inequalities.

Another photo from the same series portrayed a family, where a girl child, her mother, two grandparents and her father all gathered around a dining table, looking happy. The table was sprouting glasses of red wine alongside food and nobody had aprons on.

Some would argue that the shot was high on political correctness, but I feel symbolisms have a role to play in the large-picture scenario.

Outside of the subway, which is a recurring theme in my writings (for those unfortunate enough to read me), Spring Festival was about the skies over the city. They were so glorious on most days during that week that my soul was elevated in the words of Irish rockers U2.

I took several selfies with the sky and created a personal photo essay titled most imaginatively: Beijing Blue.

PS: I failed to come up with an advance plan to use my break to travel within China or go overseas. My resolution is to become a smart holidaymaker in 2016.

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