The sweet taste of freedom

We are all set to celebrate India’s 75th Independence Day on Monday.

author_img Vernika Awal Published :  11th August 2022 12:44 PM   |   Published :   |  11th August 2022 12:44 PM
taste of freedom

Image used for representational purpose only.

We are all set to celebrate India’s 75th Independence Day on Monday. The air in the capital is filled with the sounds of practice marches of the different defence and police bands, the tri-colour can be seen at every signal on the roads, kites are zooming high in the sky and there is unmissable energy that has blanketed the nation.

As far as my memory goes, I remember being excited for this day as my grandfather would narrate stories of the Indian freedom struggle, and the patriotic fervour could be felt in the air. Through it all, the one thing I looked forward to the most was to get my hands on the customary laddoos that were distributed post-flag hoisting.

This always had me intrigued—why is it always the laddoo that is the preferred mithai to celebrate our independence, even at a time when the world has moved on to artisanal mithais and chocolates? A fun anecdote here is that while it was salt that fired the imagination of the people of India after Gandhi’s Dandi March, those who worked with sugar were not going to be left behind in a display of patriotic solidarity.

Laddoos were the preferred mithai of celebrations, and with India celebrating multiple festivals throughout the year, the ubiquity of the humble sweet gradually became firmer. However, it was not just as sweet that the laddoo served its purpose. As the movement for independence gained momentum, these laddoos became a mode of communication.

Bombs disguised as laddoos, barfis signalled fresh kartoos [cartridge], and phrases such as “send Bengal sweets” served as encrypted messages for agitation. Along with resistance, came a crisis, and the laddoo became a way of sustenance. Pinnis, which are a form of laddoo, were— and till today are— made in every Punjabi household in winter.

They are a rich source of nutrition and make for an excellent dish to carry when travelling. In fact, they have proved to be a source of energy for soldiers since time immemorial. It is even believed that revolutionaries such as Chandra Shekar Azad and Bhagat Singh would visit the lanes of Matia Mahal in Purani Dilli in the darkness of the night, to get a quick grub of aloo-poori and mithai.

If you come to think of it, the humble laddoo became the underrated and unspoken symbol of the Indian freedom movement. These sweets invariably became one of the most delicious ways to unite a nation—with halwais making tricoloured mithais that went from home to home. This instilled a level of patriotism in the people, something that has remained constant even today. When the nation attained independence, our mithai and mithai wallahs preferred to celebrate the moment with none other than the adored motichoor laddoo. Seventy-five years down the line, the tradition continues.