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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Souvenirs From India - What to Bring Back

How do you decide what to bring home with you from a country as diverse as India? A friend of mine asked me for some suggestions of things to request from her friend from a trip to India.

I've already spoken about how I went to India with Greg in 2003/2004 for several months. We started in Delhi and worked our way east, south and then north. In this way, we made good use of the train system and had the freedom to move on and try out a new city/town/province when the mood struck us. Having visited so many places, and needing to carry our purchases with us everywhere, it was more than a little difficult to decide which things to buy along the way.

Here is my list of general recommendations for things to pick up in India:

1. Paintings/Art - Staying in Benalim, Goa for 1 month, we wanted to buy some inexpensive art to decorate our apartment. We bought these two cloth paintings plus another one. These are beautifully hand-painted and each one is slightly different. I don't remember the exact cost, but I don't imagine these were more than $10 total. These one are especially inexpensive, being on cotton, but the silk ones (non-vegan, so I wouldn't have bought them) can cost more for sure. These hang at the end of our hallway. There are so many different themes/types of these kind of paintings, so I'm sure one can easily find something suitable for a small amount of money. A bonus is that these can be rolled or laid flat and don't weigh much than a few sheets of paper, which means that they travel well!
2. Textiles - I would absolutely recommend not missing out on the textiles in India! The example of my bedspread is one from Fab India, a company which has locations throughout India. They sell linens for the bedroom, kitchen, dining room and clothing as well. Indian cotton is amazing and so is the variety of printing techniques popular in India. I'd recommend buying block-printed linens, like my bedspread, for something unique. 

3. Storage Boxes - These types of boxes can be pricey outside of India, but cost as little as 25cents within India. There are different antique markets all over India where you can but old cash boxes that can be used for jewelry (which I have done), or these small carved boxes with or without inset or other metal for jewelry, too. 

4. Magazines/Books - The English-language print industry is huge and they have some amazing decor/art magazines! The books there (home decor or fiction) are great, too - but a bit more heavy.

5. Wood Carvings/Sculptures  - Each region has their own style or deity they're most fond of. This Hanuman one was bought in Delhi on the way out of the country at a place that was a government-sponsored emporium for art from around India.

Other - Stationery/Pens  - handmade paper, writing paper, pens. . .buy as much as you can take home with you!! Also, tea - Assam and Darjeeling tea!