Inked for Life
GONE ARE THE DAYS OF BUTTERFLIES OR FLOWERS, PEOPLE ARE NOW EXPERIMENTING WITH TATTOOS ALL ACROSS THE REGION. SIMPLY PUNJABI EXPLORES THE FAST GROWING TATTOO TREND.
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.