'Lallan Sweets' book review: A sweet sojourn
Author of Once Upon a Curfew, a love story set during India's Emergency years, Srishti Chaudhary is back with another new heartwarming tale—Lallan Sweets.
Author of Once Upon a Curfew, a love story set during India’s Emergency years, Srishti Chaudhary is back with another new heartwarming tale - Lallan Sweets. The book’s spunky protagonist, Tara Taneja, is the quintessential example of an entrepreneurial millennial - running a tuition centre and riding a Kinetic bike. Her family owns Lallan Sweets, "the most traditional and popular mithai shop in all of Siyaka". Her family wants to expand further.
There’s only one problem though—no one except Tara’s grandfather, Lalaji, knows the magic ingredient of its famous delicacy—Lallan ke laddoo— not his son, grandsons or beloved granddaughter. Lalaji is hailed as somewhat of a superstar by the crowd that anxiously waits outside Lallan Sweets, from where wafts the smell of hot kachoris and where most of the town spends its evenings. He spent his whole life building the sweetshop after his family moved to Siyaka post-Partition from Lahore, where they were forced to leave behind a thriving business.
He decides that the sweetshop will not be inherited; instead it will be earned. In order to earn it, one would need to find out the enigmatic constituent—one that has "“the light of the sun and the twinkle of the stars". This takes Tara and her two cousin brothers on a quest—and a series of life lessons—involving “hurdles to cross, clues to find, riddles to solve and stages to complete”, in order that the future generation understands and values its roots.
Tara’s childhood friend and first crush, Nikku Sabharwal—with whom she shares memories of hopscotch, sugarcane juice, aloo patty, orange ice cream, golgappas, annual jagarans and pithu—decides to accompany her on the mission to unravel the cryptic family secret. As the whirlwind journey traverses from Mathura to Agra, Bareilly, Delhi, Chandigarh and Ludhiana, there are several learnings and some misadventures along the way.
The trip also offers Tara and Nikku time and opportunity to comb through their differences and assess, rather predictably, that there is more to their almost lifelong friendship.
As for the mystic component, they discover that it may not be something tangible after all. Chaudhary’s writing is crisp and refreshing, effortlessly spinning new characters in each city that she transports her readers to.
The book is also somewhat of a trip down nostalgia, replete as it is with descriptions of endearing small town charm in the mid 1990s—the ease and simplicity of its quiet summer breeze, dhabas, kulfi-wallahs, kho-kho championships, charpoys in the verandah, Daler Mehndi songs and Shah Rukh Khan films.
"The real Siyaka lay in the hearts of the people who lived on the edges of the city, taking walks at night, in their gentle nature and easy manner of talking and, of course, in Lallan ke laddoo." Lallan Sweets makes for a perfect summer read—one that will literally leave a pleasantly sweet taste in your mouth once you are done reading it.