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Buying Locally When Travelling in India

Even remote places in India are not immune to the trend of homogenization, but buying local still gives you a chance to treasure a slice of where you’ve been. Here are some of favourite things to shop for while travelling in India:

Local weaves/ textiles: In these days of mass production, it is increasingly hard to find textiles that are specific to a place, but it is possible with some research. It is also perhaps easier to find local embroidery or other handwork, even if the cloth has been manufactured elsewhere. The best thing about buying locally made clothes when travelling in India, is knowing that some part of that money is benefitting local residents, especially women who often do the weaving and embellishing. Unlike keepsakes, clothes are not permanent, but then, that gives you a chance to shop again on your next trip!

Food products: Amritsari wadiyan and paapad, Kumaoni chutneys, Manipuri bamboo pickle, blueberry jam and tea from the Nilgiris are among the delicious goodies you can buy while travelling. In the last decade, many regions in India have started producing hygienically made, high quality products, and women’s self-help groups are at the forefront of this trend. What better way to support them than tucking into the goodies they make? Food products also make for excellent gifts, unlike things like décor items and showpieces which sometimes turn out all wrong for your recipient’s house.

Boxes: Yes, many people love decorative little boxes of all types and use them to store trinkets like earrings, clips and so on. Boxes are not always handmade, which unfortunately means that they may sometimes not be locally made. Still, they usually come from the region nearby and tend to have some connection with the place.

Books/ music: There are some places are great for picking up books and music specific to the region, or even discover local authors/musicians who are not as popular in other cities. A CD of devotional music to be bought outside the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar can remind you of the incredible feeling of peace and oneness.

To riff on the popular phrase, clothes and boxes and jams and books may take a chunk out of your wallet but the memory of watching a blue-black sky with a loved one, and feeling a thump in your heart at the thought that it is merely a canvas for thousands of stars – now that’s priceless.

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