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Souvenirs: Are they waste or precious?

Anyone can buy a souvenir, but not everyone can take back one worth cherishing

April 18, 2017 / 03:43 PM IST

Anyone can buy a souvenir, but not everyone can take back one worth cherishing Translated loosely, a souvenir means anything that serves as reminder of a place, person or event.

That means that there is at least one thing essential for a souvenir to be called so – the memory bit. However, come to think of it, when was the last time you picked something from a holiday and did not throw it in a drawer or inside a showcase? When did you actually look back at it as a trigger for happy thoughts or fond anecdotes?

Go to a beach, pick a shell. Go to an amusement park, pick a cartoon cap. Visit a hill station, bring back scarves. Forgot to pack a souvenir, grab some random chocolate hamper at the airport. Souvenirs have been made too simple to be called so. They are, at best, a formality to scurry about.

At worst, they are the things you could not pick because the flight was on time. Alternatively, they are the things that make your baggage rip at seams and force you to negotiate with the airline staff.

Are they really to be fussed over at all?

Turns out they are more important than what we make them to be if they take a lot of space in the bag, of the wallet and at the wall back home.

These three tests suffice to help you with a souvenir that evokes everything but regret.

There is no rule that says that souvenirs would be significant only if they are huge. What goes for gifts goes for them as well. A small hand-woven handkerchief from a local artisan is way more keep-worthy than a fancy artifact that weighs some annoying pounds.

A gift, whether for yourself, of for someone else has to be thoughtful, above everything else. For instance- Don’t buy a cashmere shawl from Kashmir if you stay in the tropics or if your friend never wears one. Buy a local spice that is key to Wazwan cuisine instead or some ingredient to make a fuzzy kahwa back home.

Also, make sure that the item fits in the luggage. This rule comes into play all the more when you have to buy gifts for several people. Pick tiny but talk-friendly stuff. It does not have to be expensive as long as there is something interesting or simply, a narrative behind it.

Speaking of which, anything can be a souvenir. It can be something that you spot randomly, something that gets your eye for a hypnotic instant. It does not have to be only a thing that tourists usually buy from a particular store or market.  Anything is exotic; it does not have to be labeled so.

So, if you find something interesting while walking back home after a meal, pick it then and there. Do not wait for a separate day or place apportioned for souvenirs.

Think of the wall next. Or the shelf. Or the corridor. It will make you a really interesting and savvy souvenir-picker if you blend it well as a collection that evolves together. When the guests visit your garden, you can treat them to an eclectic sight of cute ceramic figurines from various places you have been to. Visualise where you would keep an item and it would be easy deciding about.

Souvenirs do not have to be bought. They can simply be brought. An idle pebble lying on the river bank would be as much of a memoir as a touristy T-shirt. A clay saucer given as a nice gesture by the potter you visited in a village is quite a keepsake in itself.

Finally, if what you buy has more utility than merely facilitating conversations with guests, nothing like it. A pair of gloves or a set of coasters is always better than a statuette that will lie forgotten for years.

Of course, you might want to run a quick check about customs policy as to what is allowed or banned in/from a given place. You just never know what innocuous-looking item may rub the authorities the wrong way. And yes, do get those baubles wrapped well so that they are not left to be kept in pieces or powder.

That’s pretty much it. Enjoy picking something smart and memorable on your next trip.

The author is a travel writer, blogger, and amateur photographer. She blogs at and vlogs at   
Vibha Ravi
first published: Nov 3, 2016 03:31 pm

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