Gift memories with a ‘souvenir’ of love

Sometimes friends coax me to reveal details about my recent travels. Just like any fellow traveller, I too visit a destination with a set mindset. I visit a place, do some sightseeing, soak in the spirit the destination by visiting the not-so-common areas that manage to escape a discerning tourist’s eye. Back home, I prefer to share what a particular destination is famous for.. so I do that by telling them about ‘souvenirs’.

There’s no rocket science involved in picking up stuff from a destination, says a colleague! But how can it not be? Every destination is a world in itself and has a plethora of richness embedded in its character. The very character of the destination is threaded in to the knick knacks – small and large – that are sold as souvenirs, intriguing enough to get the smile on the face of the receiver. What are these, how each is different to the other, do these cost a bomb etc etc etc? So many questions and so little time to share all the details. So, here’s something on the souvenirs or the keepsakes that are indigenous to a particular destination that one can bring back home and gift to their loved ones.

Bring home the memory
Well, a souvenir can be anything under the sky – flags, figurines, spices, hats, matchboxes, stamps, crockery and other craft items. Ask me what I pick as souvenirs on my travels and I would say the travel junkie in me is always excited to collect that one particular ‘thing’ from the destination I am visiting, is famous for. Though picking up whatever is available off the shelf is not my forte, but whenever I am out somewhere, collecting a souvenir becomes a habit! And sometimes the secret fetish works – as a womanly trait – and I collect things in two sets, one for gifting and one for self. Glee

Toys are my favourite souvenirs, chiefly because they add a lot of colour to the showcase they are displayed at (pun intended). There are souvenirs that go straight into that wooden chest you got from your mum, isn’t it? But some always remain close to the heart; some have special memories associated with them; some also remind of the place, the time of visit, setting and of course the company!

Exotic or not, a destination unfurls before the eyes the moment you look at the souvenir. While dusting the various souvenirs, sitting happily at different corners of the house, I cherish the time I spent somewhere. Bustling or not, quaint or not, beach or temple, a souvenir can bring back the cacophonies of the first morning or the first cuppa tea! “Indulging in souvenir shopping is such a girl thing,” a male friend says, to which I retort, “Men only indulge in buying some toddy, knives, poker sets, cards, airguns and all the destructive stuff!” True, hammocks, T-shirts, knives and key-rings make great souvenirs. Some run of the mill souvenirs includes T-shirts with silly destination slogans, plastic key rings and key rings made out of conch shells. What are your favourites?

International pieces 
Do you, like many others, have this habit of buying souvenirs and shoving them at the back of your closets or kitchen cabinets? If yes, then I would suggest invest in souvenirs that have longer shelf life or the ones that can add some value to your or the receivers’ households. Fridge magnets are mostly indigenous to foreign locations. So, if you are travelling internationally, picking up fridge magnets would sound a reasonable idea, and cheaper one at that

Indian souvenirs are the best 
If you are a foreign national travelling to India, you would be surprised to see the kind of variety of souvenirs each city and state has to offer. Our country is a great place to indulge in shopping, so make sure your pockets are loaded. From Kondapalli toys from Andhra Pradesh to the tie and dye fabric from Rajasthan, tribal art from Bastar in Chattisgarh to filter coffee from Tamil Nadu, every region in the country offers an eclectic mix of knick-knacks and souvenirs. Depending on the recipients’ personal favourites, you can pick these up! If the recipient likes beverages, choose coffee beans from Coorg or Munnar, alternatively you may also pick Makaibari green tea or other artistically blended teas from Darjeeling or Assam. These, as well as local herbal teas, are light, easily packable and inexpensive souvenirs.

Chilli fans appreciate new types of dried peppers and small bottles of sauce. Packing a sheet or two of bubble wrap ensures extra protection for fragile souvenirs. Foods such as cookies, cakes, sweets and snacks unique to your location are all good choices, if they are not similar to those you can buy at home. Kiyani Bakery in Pune makes melt-in-mouth Shrewsbury biscuits. And you get some of the best farsanfafda, khakra, jeera khari – in the cities of Gujarat. South Indian murukkus happen to be my personal favourites, so whenever I am travelling down south, I make it a point to bring back  bags full of murukkus and the tangy achaars called avakai and gunpowder made from various dals, called podi ! This, beside the marvelous Chettinad cottons, Madurai cottons and the grand kanjeevaram sarees.

Plan to gift something to a woman? Chikan sarees or dress material from Lucknow, without forgetting the delectable Tunde kebabs would perhaps be the best option. Perfumes coming in tiny little bottles (ittars) from UP, colourful mojaris from Punjab, Kantha sarees from Kolkata, conch shell jewellery from Goa, vibrant Madhubani paintings from Bihar or silver filigree from Orrisa, all these souvenirs are sure to make all your ladies friends or family members happy. South India offers a different array of souvenirs, the ones that have an ethnic element to it. Choose a colorful hand-painted dance mask, or an intricate wood carving, a vivid South Indian silk saree or exquisite temple jewellery. These and other handicrafts are widely available in both local markets, of course you will have to haggle over prices.

While travelling to the North East of India, visitors can even purchase bamboo baskets, place mats, and other woven items for kitchen and home use. Decorative replicas of costumed ceremonial figures, Bodo weave fabric, wood and bamboo handicrafts. Mekhla Chador (traditional Assamese saree) and ceremonial masks also make for a souvenir worth gifting. Bring home samples of all your travels, bring home memories and cherish them later!

Indulge in

  • Sandle soaps and incense sticks from Mysore
  • Tea from the Nilgiris, Assam and Darjeeling
  • Coffee from Coorg and the Nilgiris
  • Patachitra from Bengal
  • Madhubani paintings from Bihar
  • Blue pottery from Jaipur
  • Multi-coloured sarongs from Goa
  • Pashmina shawls from Kashmir
  • Silk sarees from south India
  • Knives from North eastern states
  • Edible items from across India

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