Phantom Cigarettes To Fatafat, The Candy Of Our Childhoods
Image Credit: Phantom Cigarettes

HAS a familiar jingle from the street ever taken you back to the hot afternoons of your childhood? You might remember the steadfast chacha patiently waiting behind his thela-gaari filled with salty and sugary delights, right outside your school gates, to sell his wares. Post-school, you would rush out, coins jangling in your pockets, to find the handcart laden with treats — the jumpy Magic Pops, Poppins in its colourful wrappers, Fatafat golis that smelled oh-so-pungent and sweet. 

Biting into these candies, one was blissfully unaware of how ephemeral those moments of childhood wonder were. The thela-gaari, like our childhood, slowly faded into the past, becoming a reminder of simpler times when joy could be found in the simplest of things. Here’s a look at some of the treats the thela-gaaris carried to us:

Phantom Cigarettes: Remember the thrill of pretending to be an adult, puffing away on a phantom cigarette? These white candy sticks, complete with a red tip to mimic a lit cigarette, were a favourite amongst children. Despite the controversy surrounding them for promoting smoking, the allure of these candies was undeniable. The sweet, chalky taste and the feeling of being grown-up made them a popular treat for kids. As we grew older, the novelty of these phantom cigarettes faded, but the memories of sharing them with friends and playfully imitating our favourite movie stars remain etched in our minds.

Fatafat: More than the tiny beady balls, it was the packaging that was the most appealing for Fatafat fans. This candy with a sour exterior and sweet core was a digestive goli that combined sweet and tangy flavours with a hint of spice. These candies were not only tasty but also had digestive properties, making them a popular choice for those looking for a sweet treat with added health benefits.

Rola Cola: It was a unique treat that offered the taste of cola in a hard candy form. The dark brown candy fizzed and popped in the mouth, mimicking the sensation of drinking a bottle of soda. Rola Cola captured the nostalgic taste of India’s popular soft drinks like Thums Up and Gold Spot and was a novelty candy that delighted kids and adults alike.

Poppins: Poppins were colourful, fruit-flavoured candies that came in a roll. Each candy was a different flavour, making each bite a surprise. The bright colours and variety of tastes made Poppins an exciting treat. Biting into each new candy was an adventure as you discovered its flavour. Poppins were a whimsical candy that sparked joy and wonder in both children and the young at heart.


Mango Bite and Kaccha Mango Bite: These were hard candies that captured the tangy taste of a ripe mango and the latter that of a raw mango. They were a favourite treat, especially during the mango off-season and hot sweltering summers.

Magic Pops: Magic Pops were a unique candy that created a popping sensation in your mouth when you ate them. These candies were carbonated with carbon dioxide, which caused them to fizz and crackle when they came into contact with saliva. Magic Pops came in a variety of fruity flavours, and their exciting texture made them a hit among kids in the 90s.

Pan Pasand: Pan Pasand was a candy that combined the flavours of traditional Indian pan with a sweet and tangy candy coating. These candies were popular for their unique taste and the refreshing sensation they provided. Pan Pasand was often enjoyed as an after-meal treat or as a palate cleanser between courses.

Jelly Cups: Jelly Cups were small, fruit-flavoured gelatin treats that came in a variety of shapes and colours. These fun and wiggly candies were a hit at birthday parties and other celebrations, and their soft, jiggly texture made them a favourite among kids.

Pulse Candy: Pulse Candy was a hard candy with a tangy, fruity flavour and a surprise spicy center. These candies were known for their unique combination of sweet, sour, and spicy flavours, and they quickly became a favourite among kids and adults alike.

Toffichoo: Toffichoo was a soft, chewy toffee with a rich chocolate flavour. These candies were popular for their smooth texture and delicious taste, and they were often enjoyed as a sweet treat after a meal or as a midday snack.

These candies were not just treats, but a part of childhood memories for many. They were shared among friends, fought over, and sometimes even used as a form of currency in childhood games. The allure of these candies, much like the Phantom Cigarettes, lies in the nostalgia they evoke and the simpler times they represent.