Inked for Life



SIM­PLY PUN­JABI ex­plores the fast grow­ing tat­too trend in the re­gion.

Apetite girl walks in. Asks for a ‘birds’ tat­too on her wrist and enquires if it’s “go­ing to hurt too much”. She’s put at ease and the process starts. Five min­utes down the line, she’s talk­ing on hands-free and telling a friend that she too must get inked.

“Out here, the ma­jor­ity of cus­tomers are women. We do at least two pro­cesses ev­ery day. Things have re­ally changed ever since I started out. Ear­lier, it was only about men who wanted re­li­gious sym­bols inked on their skin. Nowa­days, cus­tomers come with their own de­signs. Mantras, de­signs from the in­ter­net etc. Just the other day, a girl wanted de­sign of a Red Bull can tat­tooed on her back,” says Rishabh Narang, 25, from Im­mor­tal Tat­toos in Chandigarh who started off this busi­ness five years back.

An en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ate, Narang was sure that he would never do a 9-to-5 job. “I did pretty well in my aca­demics, but was sure that I wanted to do some­thing cre­ative. This pro­fes­sion promised not only art but also de­cent money and a chance to in­ter­act with a large num­ber of people,” says the artist, who also inked crick­eter Harb­ha­jan Singh some­time back.

Narang, who learnt the art from Devil’s Tat­too in Delhi, says that the best part of the pro­fes­sion is the “per­ma­nent con­nec­tion with the client”. “You are bonded in a strange way af­ter you have inked some­one for life. This is an ad­dic­tive pro­fes­sion where you start com­pet­ing with yourself af­ter a while.” Stress­ing that the re­gion is fi­nally wak­ing up to this art form, Narang elab­o­rates, “Ear­lier people would show much ap­pre­hen­sion in get­ting a tat­too. Some would get it only on their backs or an area which would be cov­ered by clothes. Now things have changed dras­ti­cally. Women are ready to ex­per­i­ment more and get their own de­signs. Just re­cently, two sis­ters got poet Shiv Ku­mar Batalvi’s lines etched on them.” Tat­too artist Bhupi, 34, who has stu­dios in Jalandhar and Lud­hi­ana is a happy man. “More and more people are com­ing for­ward to get inked. It is a mis­con­cep­tion that only celebri­ties in this re­gion are show­ing in­ter­est. I have done tat­toos on

a num­ber of singers and mod­els, but be­lieve me, even the gen­eral pub­lic is com­ing for­ward,” Bhupi says, adding that in Jalandhar and ad­join­ing ar­eas, men tat­too seek­ers are in ma­jor­ity. “Of course, I have women clients too, but un­like Chandigarh, it’s men who are in ma­jor­ity in a place like Jalandhar,” he says.

Bhupi, who learnt this art from Thai­land and Eng­land, has been work­ing in the field since 2004. “Some de­signs are im­mor­tal. For ex­am­ple, the re­li­gious sym­bols and those re­lated with Pun­jab. No mat­ter what, there is a sec­tion of men com­ing to me who still want them. How­ever, I must add that the ex­po­sure lo­cal people have got thanks to rel­a­tives liv­ing abroad has made them lean more to­wards ex­per­i­ment­ing with de­signs. Ei­ther they ask us for de­sign sug­ges­tions or come with their own ones,” says Bhupi, who says that the aver­age age of tat­too seek­ers in Jalandhar is be­tween 25 and 40 years.

Tat­too artist Nick Sharma, 38, from Lud­hi­ana, who has rep­re­sented In­dia in in­ter­na­tional tat­too con­ven­tions in Sin­ga­pore and Aus­tralia, has been prac­tic­ing this art for more than 10 years now. “Tat­toos are a rel­a­tively new con­cept for people in this re­giong. But they have def­i­nitely be­come a rage among people. I gen­er­ally get cus­tomers be­tween the age group of 18 and 40. Ear­lier, but­ter­flies, an­i­mals and re­li­gious sym­bols used to rule, but now it’s about por­traits. 40% of our clients are women. Though we are known for big tat­toos, women come to us for small and in­tri­cate de­signs as well. We have sports­men as our clients who pre­fer get­ting their backs cov­ered.”

In­sist­ing that he al­ways had a cre­ative bent of mind, Sharma talks about how he started off, “When I started, there were not many tat­too artists. I learnt this art from a French tourist. I stayed with him for more than a month and learnt the ba­sics. There has been no look­ing back ever since.” Sharma adds, “I love hav­ing those hour-long con­ver­sa­tions with the clients dur­ing the process.”

From their own de­signs to quotes, men and women in the re­gion are ex­per­i­ment­ing more with tat­toos.

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