My favourite part about travel has been the things I could get from my trip. I’ve often wondered if this indicated a weird obsession with materialism and was a by-product of the consumerist strategies of contemporary tourism. So to make myself feel less bad about getting a few bits and pieces of the place I visited, I started getting things for my friends and family.
In January 2020, a few weeks before COVID hit my country, I happened to visit Jaipur with my best friends. It was the first time I travelled for leisure without my family and that trip is reminiscent of liberation, spontaneity and sisterhood.
Jaipur has got to be the most colourful place in Rajasthan, India. A task indeed, considering its arid geography and lack of natural flora. It was freezing cold that month and a soft breeze blew at all times. And what I remember most from the trip, almost 2 years later is the chiming sounds of pretty memorabilia and souvenirs put on sale wherever we went.
Keychains have always been a weakness for me. Probably because they are pocket and travel-friendly, come in various forms and sizes and simply never run out of style! Keychains also have this ability to denote a certain nativeness unique to its place of production. If you choose the right ones from the right places, they can be a fun and satisfying experience.
The best thing about shopping for keychains at Jaipur was that some of them were extremely cheap. Most of these were sold by hawkers who sold their goods during the day and bundled them by night, leaving behind no trace of their day-time business. And the variety!
The keychains had Jaipur etched into them in some form or the other. There were generic I Heart Jaipur glass keychains, miniature monument ones, religious paraphernalia, miniature wood structures with tiny bronze jingle bells and of course, the traditional Rajasthani string puppets/ Kathputlis.
The miniature wood keychains had to be my favourite. They were of all sorts— canons, Gods, monuments, boxes, elephants, books, musical instruments, mirrors, snakes, the list is never ending. And you know how things look a thousand times cuter when it’s in a miniature form.
There were also trick keychains. These were unsuspecting boxes in a drawer-with-lock format and when you pulled the drawer part out of its box, it had a squiggly toy spider or a toy snake pop out at you. I got one of those spider trick keychains for my partner and a wooden miniature elephant for myself.
My college dorm roommates were intrigued by my choice of souvenirs, to say the least! Most holiday-goers from Jaipur return with jewelry, clothes and art-work. And while I did let myself buy a couple of earrings and a local-made kurta, I returned from Jaipur with a bunch of little keychains jingling in my handbag. They were cheap and looked tacky to the general eye, but to me they mean much more than the 20 or so Rupees (equivalent to $0.26) I spent on them.
Two years — two long years, what with staying in all the time — and barely any more vacations later, my wooden elephant keychain hangs on a cupboard door handle. I look at it longingly because it reminds me of that wonderful time in Jaipur. People walked around freely and I didn’t suspect every second person I met of being a health hazard. It reminds me of the chimes and jingles in the cold January air against the sound of soft breeze. Above all, it reminds me of freedom and excitement.
I would like to give a shout-out to Gaurav Jain. I simply loved reading his travel series story on The Niagara of South India. The place mentioned is where I originally come from, which will give you a sense of why Jaipur felt so different. Do give it a read and don’t forget to clap!
Finally, here’s a shoutout to a New Year’s Resolution competition organised by Coffee Times. It’s an amazing opportunity you wouldn’t want to miss out out on! Check out the news here: