Laddoo……Sandila Laddoo……..Laddoo…….Sandila Laddoo……. Have you heard this clarion call ever? Have these words ever knocked through your ear-drums? Or, can you relate to the picture at the top, which has some sweets in an earthen pot with some red celophene paper besides it? I can presume and predict without the benefit of being an astrologer, that If you have you ever traveled in North India between Lucknow and Delhi on Indian Rail, you would have heard that. I have been hearing these sounds ever since I was a kid. Whenever I travelled on a non super fast train-Sandial being a smaller station so only non super fast train would be stopping here- from Lucknow to Delhi or to Dehradun, it used to halt at Sandila, a small nondescript town of Hardoi district located about 50 odd Km from Lucknow. My knowledge about Sandila town has been limited to the famous laddoos only which the town used to churn out in all probability in near past.
As soon as a train stopped or even entered the platform of Sandila railway station, I would hear very clear sounds of laddoos hawkers calling out for anybody who was interested in the delicacy on the move over a two minutes stoppage. The sound and sights of laddoos would be clearer through the iron grill windows of a second class sleeper coach as compared to black tinted glass windowed AC coaches. I would usually look out of the window and would look out at many small earthen laddoo pots hanging through a rope tied to a support hanging from the arms or shoulders of the vendor. The sight would usually amuse me and more often than not, I would try to assess the probability of buying eatables on a railway platform. I would sometimes ask about the prices and have a closer look at the pot, contents of which would still be little secret. I yielded sometimes to my taste buds and bought a pot. I would uncover them and found the sweets inside it. I would taste them and usually found that to be loaded with more sugar than besan (Bengal Gram Flour). I would still relish that and share with my family members and co-traveler. The taste would not be that great but still, the process of the purchase would leave a sweeter taste in my mouth as well as in my sweeter memories.
I would however always think about the probability of getting the tastier Sandila laddoos sometimes when I could get inside the town of Sandila by some chance and would get to the best shop of town selling authentic laddoos, unlike those on railways platform. Last week, I was travelling with my family by road from Hardoi to Lucknow and had some liberty of time as well. My kids too had been hearing about the laddoos and when I took their opinion of trying some good shop selling famed Sandila laddoos, they too acquiesced in. The next challenge was to know the best shop in town. I called my friend Yogesh over phone as he was a native of Hardoi and was most likely to know about those. He referred to me the name of Babulal Halwai(sweetmeat shop owner), whose shop was inside the town just after railway crossing and adjacent to Police Station Sandila. I thanked Yogesh and headed for the destination.
I was there soon. The shop is really a smallish one and normally only locals would notice that. The seller at the counter was one Prakash, a man in mid forties. I asked him to suggest his shop’s specialities. He suggested to me, Bundi laddoos and Gond(Gum) Laddoos. I asked him to give an half Kg of both. I could notice that at the back end of the shop, fresh laddoos were being produced and Ii was therefore happy to know that I would be getting the fresh product. I asked him if he could pack the ladooos in earthen pot. He told me, that now he was not using the earthen pots as the locals now don’t prefer that. I was little disappointed at the prospect of not getting signature Sandila Laddoos in attractive earthen pots, but having no alternative, agreed to normal card board packing.
I got both the variety packed soon and boarded back my vehicle with the happy anticipation of a great delicacy so dear to my sweet tooth memories. I ate the Bundi Laddoos first, followed by Gum Laddoos. The taste was good, but not something to match with great popularity of the icon. Laddoos were better than those sold on a platform but still were no less sugary. The kids too tried each and were not eager to repeat them. Perhaps the price of Laddoos was responsible for that or how else could you afford to sell a Kg of Laddoos for a paltry Rs 130? A kg of Arhar Dal now costs no less than Rs 140! It may also be possible that hardworking Sandilaites could be digesting that much sugar easily, than fatty morons like me.
I was still happy to fulfill one of my long cherished wish to eat Sandila Laddoos right at Sandila town. It was a mission accomplished sort of. This fulfillment was in fact sweeter and yummier than Laddoos! That day, I perhaps ticked one more item in my ‘Bucket List’.