A year after Article 370 was abrogated and the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were bifurcated into Union Territories, we got a glimpse into the new world order as Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its first outlet in Srinagar.
While KFC had two outlets in Jammu, this was the first one that opened up in Srinagar.
The crowds were a stark contrast from what felt like posed pictures of normalcy when NSA Ajit Doval had turned up to discuss politics with locals last year over a plate of biryani. Sadly, as it emerged later, it was quite forced and the food that was served wasn’t even biryani!
There were no such hesitation this time around.
In some ways it was reminiscent of the first McDonald’s that opened in Moscow in 1990, signalling the triumph of capitalism over communism in the most capitalist way feasible – gluttony.
A joint venture between McDonald’s of Canada and the Moscow City council, it was the largest McDonald’s store of its time.
In a country where the average salary was 150 roubles per month, a Big ‘Mak’ sold for 3.75 rubles
That didn’t deter the crowd with 5000 people lining up to eat.
One individual recalled: “Everything tasted more intense than anything I’d ever tried before. I ate and drank and chewed like it was my last meal on earth. Around ten minutes and 5,000 calories later, my body alerted me to the fact that it wasn’t quite able to digest all the fatty deliciousness and that it was probably a good time to check out how an American toilet looked like from the inside. I wasn’t alone: the queues to the toilets, especially the women’s, was almost as long as the queues outside.”
The store would close down in 2013. Incidentally, there were plans to sell the Big Mac for 3 roubles in 2020 but it was scrapped over fear of a coronavirus spread.
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Interestingly, columnist Manu Joseph had written in 2012: “He and his close friend take me to Café Coffee Day, which is filled with young people. Both the men work for Aircel. They say what many educated young people in Kashmir say—can we move on? Can we have development first instead of waiting forever for the Kashmir issue to be solved? We want industries to come here, we want MNCs and malls. We want to watch a cricket match in Srinagar. “We want KFC,” one of them says, and they burst out laughing.”
8 years later, that young man finally got what he wanted.
Russia has come a long way since then and one will have to wait and see what the first KFC spells for Srinagar and Kashmir.