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McDonalds, Superman, and Beggars


Saturday is a day John and I get to get out and spend with one another, usually trying to do something fun or relaxing. This week, our friend Jayne offered to watch Aria for us so of course the first thing on John’s mind was to go see a movie. He’s been wanting to go to the movie theatre since we arrived in Hyderabad, but having a baby with no sitter, and a wife who’s not fond of going to the movies, he hadn’t had the opportunity present itself. But Saturday was his big day. I reluctantly agreed and off we went through the crazy, heavily-trafficked streets of Hyderabad to a movie complex called Prassads, which is also a mall. Not only did John have it in his mind to go to the movies, but he had a second reason for wanting to go to Prassads: they recently opened the first McDonalds here in Hyderabad.
Of course, I was a bit skeptical as to the variety of food that would be available as McDonalds in India is halal; in other words, it doesn’t serve beef or pork. But, off we went. After coming up the stairs into the mall from the parking garage we saw into McDonalds right away through their indoor entrance—packed! We hurried to the box office and got tickets to see Superman in the IMAX and then went to McDonalds via the outdoor entrance. The front looked like any other McDonalds with its red and yellow sign, the golden arches, and a statue of Ronald McDonald sitting cheerfully on a bench outside. We saw a girl begging out front with a much younger sibling on her hip and gave her some change. Then we went into the crowded room. The menu was even less like America than I’d thought. There were only two burgers that were the same: a Chicken McGrill and a Fish Fillet. I asked John to get me the Chicken McGrill and set off through the sea of people to look for a seat. I thought we might have to actually eat standing up or share a table with people we didn’t know, but then across the room in the corner by the window I saw a small table with two chairs that had just been vacated. I booked it over there and thankfully they remained unoccupied for me. I was glad to have a spot that was kind of tucked to the outskirts of the noisy, jabbering, techno-filled room. As I waited I looked around; the décor was modern and the only splashes of red and yellow inside were in the balloons that an employee was handing out to every child who happened to be there. Our table by the window gave us a good view of the Ronald McDonald bench that was constantly being briefly occupied for everyone’s own personal photo shoot. John brought me my chicken burger that was okay, but really the worst Chicken McGrill I’d ever had at a McDonalds. The French fries tasted great though. John had a “Big Chicken Maharaja Mac”, their version of a Big Mac. It hardly looked appealing to me, but he said it was really good—he can be weird like that.;-) We enjoyed ourselves and had a good laugh over the flyer on the tray that stated how McDonalds provided a “well-balanced diet” because it included protein (the chicken), fiber (the wilted ice burg lettuce), carbohydrates (the white bun), and fat (the mayonnaise). I hadn’t gone to McDonalds expecting to get such a meal of nutrition!
Our table was about half a story up from the ground outside and the little beggar girl with the baby on her hip kept coming to the window on and off during our meal and begging. I was annoyed because we’d already given her some change and now she felt the need to harass throughout our entire McDonalds experience. But, we decided to buy a burger that she and the little child could eat. John went up to get it along with some soft serve ice cream for ourselves while I looked out the window. To my amazement, I suddenly saw an identical girl with a different little child on her hip. Things made sense now; I’d given the girl’s twin sister the change and not the girl begging at the window. I was hoping John would come back to our seat before he took the burger out so I could tell him to make sure the girl from the window got it, but as I thought this I saw him outside through the window holding out the burger. Both girls with babies in tote started running up, but the girl we’d already given change to got there first. “Oh great,” I thought. She took a bite of the burger than set her tiny brother down and gave it to him. I watched him slowly eat the whole thing up as I ate my ice cream on the other side of the window and just felt a little at loss.
Sometimes we are really hounded by beggars. It is not easy knowing what to do. Sometimes I’ll give them change and they don’t seem happy that I didn’t give them more. Other times I give them a banana or something instead, but that’s not good enough, they want money too. The kids can be relentless, but you know that they just give that money up to someone else at the end of the day. Sometimes I feel helpless, or angry, or annoyed, but there is no specific answer to what I should do.
Anyway, John and I did enjoy our date as it’d been a while since we’d done anything without Aria, and Superman was fun—after the movie as we were preparing to leave the theatre, it didn’t seem like India was out there on the other side of the door.

3 Responses to “McDonalds, Superman, and Beggars”

  1. Rae
    August 16th, 2006 17:17

    It is always a hard thing, in India, to know what to do about the beggars. I feel for you.. you want your heart to remain soft, but sometimes it’s heart to know what the right response is.

  2. Jessica
    August 22nd, 2006 15:07

    a date without a baby! must have been a bit of a novelty!
    the hard thing in india, i would think, is that you stand out as a westerner no matter what and so you’re more likely to be hounded. when i was in romania, all i had to do was keep my mouth shut and i was fine… but as soon as they heard english- well, let’s just say the ‘cover’ was blown- especially with regards to children begging! love you and glad i finally got online to read your post.

  3. Rachel
    August 30th, 2006 08:38

    We definitely stand out! No way around that.

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