CHENNAI: The black ink fascinated him as a child and still does. The passion led to R Raj, a BDS doctor to pursue the art of tattooing and he came around to establish his own business, Blackmagic Body Art Studio.
Clothed entirely in black from head to toe, he may have looked like a hipster, but just a good two-minute conversation proves otherwise — the tattoo artist is also a father, a husband and a businessman.
“It is sad that because of the western influence, the art of tattooing has been frowned upon in the early days. Just a decade back, Indians had a negative attitude towards it and it wasn’t part of the common lifestyle despite the ancestral use in our country itself. Now, it’s changing again. We find mothers bring their children and point out different designs they like. Sometimes even cops come in,” says Raj.
So did he face any difficulties when he established it 12 years ago? “Not really. Just some financial difficulties. Initially, supplies were a problem, we had to fly to Thailand and Bangkok for ink. It’s easier now, just a phone call. My community had no problem,” he said.
At his native place, Thanjavur, people have a long history of getting a symbol of a god, serpent or lover’s name on their bodies. “Especially during festivals, everyone would get one. I found it really interesting, I would sit with them and try to understand how and what they did,” says Raj. Only thing that was a problem was hygiene and safety. “Sometimes, people would pierce deep under the skin or would not use clean equipment,” he recalls.
But the permanent marks that the art left on the skin impressed Raj. “I come from a family of doctors, so my parents expected me to study it too. Though I didn’t practice, they were content with the letters ‘Dr’ near my name,” he chuckles. He then moved to Bengaluru where he met Mike, his teacher.
He then went to Delhi for a course, trained under Mike for six months and then he was ready. “The day came when I received my first tattoo, from Mike. It’s my favourite,” he says, showing his hand where a reaper glared back. “I was called the Reaper, it was the company’s logo. Or maybe because I’m a devil,” he jokes. Since then, Raj has been collecting tattoos from people, including his students who trained under him. “Whenever I meet artists, I want them to ink me. I’ve missed two appointments with one of the most popular artists in the country, Sameer Patang. But some day I will.”
What about the first tattoo he gave? He smiles, “On my wife. A tribal design and just recently, she got a full back floral tattoo. My daughter seems a little interested too. She is in Class 8 right now, she talks about being a designer though,” he says. One thing that father and daughter do together is fishing.
“I go fishing whenever I find time. Puducherry, Mahabalipuram, ECR beaches are some of the places I go to. My best catch was a fish that weighed around two kilos. And no, I don’t throw them back, we cook and eat them,” grins Raj.
Coming back to tattoos, Raj talks about the cosmetic changes and coverups that his studio provides. “For instance, if you have someone’s initials inked and you want them to vanish after a break up, we provide a coverup.
“The precautions we take are checking where they got it tattooed in the first place, where the ink was used and checking the skin. If it was infected in any way — bulging or hardened skin, then nothing can be done,” he says, showing us a bulging, arm on one of his staff members. “Even if we do cover it up, the area will remain bulging.”
(To know more about what they do, call 09940122666)