Landour began in the early 1800s as a convalescence centre for British soldiers. Among those who played a major part in looking after the recuperating military men were nuns: the ‘sisters’. Landour has long since stopped being a place to recover and recuperate, and the sisters have long since moved out, but the memory of those days remains in the name of Sisters Bazaar. The ‘sisters’ of Landour used to live in a dormitory here, which is why the street has become known as Sisters Bazaar. It isn’t really a bazaar as such—not unless you consider two shops a bazaar!
This is a small, very quiet and sleepy little street in Landour, where a bunch of cottages—two of them partly converted into shops—line on side. Geraniums grow in pots hung in wire baskets from the eaves of the cottages. Birdsong can be heard from the deodar woods nearby, and there’s an air of unhurried, uncrowded charm that’s a very welcome break from the din of Mussoorie.
The other side of the Sisters Bazaar street is occupied by a long, low building with a stone rubble wall till about half-way up, and a dun wash above that. This was, when the nuns lived in Landour, the dormitory that accommodated them. Later, long after the nuns had moved out, the building was bought by legendary Hindi filmstar Dev Anand, whose family still owns it—we were told that his daughter Devina still lives there.
The biggest draw of Sisters Bazaar is Prakash Store, the larger of the two shops on this street. Prakash Store caters largely to the more Westernised of Landour’s residents (including the many foreigners who come to the Language School to study Indian languages). Besides the usual branded groceries that you’ll find in other shops in Mussoorie and Landour, Prakash Store also stocks a lot of imported foods: nothing terribly fancy, but old (and addictive) favourites like Mars bars, Nutella, snacks, canned food, even a few cheeses, such as cheddar.
More importantly, Prakash Store doesn’t restrict itself to only selling stuff they’ve procured; they also make some goodies. Chief among these are fruit preserves—the recipe dates back to 1926, and was originally obtained from the ‘sisters’ at the convalescence home. Strawberries, gooseberries (actually, cape gooseberries), apricots, plums, and other local fruit are made into jams and sold here. They also make cheeses—local cheddar and goat’s milk cheese among them—andyak’s milk cheese. Plus, they do some baking.
The day we visited Sisters Bazaar and stopped by at Prakash Store, they didn’t have any yak’s milk cheese (which was what we were actually interested in), so we skipped the cheese, and bought a few bottles of jam instead: plum, apricot, strawberry, and gooseberry. The baked goods section had some relatively mundane bread, cinnamon buns, and some very fragrant banana and walnut bread (in fact, one of the best things about going into Prakash Store—even if you don’t buy anything—is that you’re greeted with the aroma of baking. Lovely!)
We ended up buying a loaf of banana and walnut bread to have with our tea back at the hotel. Though it was nice and moist, it didn’t have as much banana flavour as we’d have expected. The jams, when we had them back home, turned out to be a hit or miss affair; the two jams we kept for ourselves—apricot, and strawberry—were vastly different in quality. The strawberry jam was just the right consistency, and tasted great. The apricot jam, on the other hand, tasted of nothing in particular (certainly not apricots), and was set pretty solid—too much pectin there, I think.
Other than this large store, there’s a tiny shop a few metres down the street. This deals in local goods and souvenirs: clothing (especially woollens), embroidered scarves and stoles, trinkets, handmade soap, and a range of organic foods, from unusual flours to raw sugar. It’s a nice (if cramped) place to buy stuff for friends and relatives who may not be especially keen on jams or cheeses.