Tattoo is no more a taboo for youngsters, rather they have taken the mantra of ‘wear your attitude’ under their skin, literally!
At a major recruitment rally of the Indian Army recently held in Thiruvananthapuram, the officials found themselves in a spot with most of the candidates having body art. The norm was that candidates sporting body art of permanent nature will be disqualified for health reasons. The ban had to be amended and army aspirants can now get away with tattoos if they are done on the inner arm.
More people are opening up to this form of art and are not just more than willing to sit through the pain to get inked but are often quite informed about it. “This was not the case seven years back, when I opened my first tattoo studio in Fort Kochi,” says tattoo artist Pramod, who now runs two tattoo studios, both named Black Arts, in Fort Kochi and in Panampilly Nagar.
“Earlier, most of my clients were foreigners looking out for cheap tattoo options while on a vacation. Now most of them are from the city itself. Many of course are those who have lived elsewhere and have been exposed to the tattoo culture,” says Pramod sporting a tribal tattoo on his left hand.
Though tattooing is most popular among people from 25 to 30 years of age, even the not-so-young are walking into tattoo studios to get inked. Also, gone are the days when people gingerly entered tattoo studios with many doubts floating in their minds. “They know it all, the procedure, equipment, variety of ink, everything. In fact, most people come here with a storyboard in place. They are very clear about what they want and where and how they want it. Being the artist, I just have to make it all fall into place for them. I have also had cases where people came for a single tattoo and walked out with three tattoos on their bodies,” says Pramod.
The trend seems most popular with party hoppers and tattoo lovers. Many can be seen flaunting ‘pretty and cool tattoos’.
Also, it is placed in such a way that it cannot go unnoticed. Pramod says that one of his customers went to the extent of getting a chemical formula on her belly. Most are quite adventurous when it comes to designs and ‘places’ for the tattoo. The idea is, very clearly, to make a statement.
Ex-journalist Vinu Cherian feels that tattoos are addictive. When he got his first Red Indian designed tattoo in 1972, as a small-time tattoo artist on Moore Market roadside, he was just being rebellious. But it later became a fashion statement for him. He made his last tattoo when he was 55. “It was my love for tattoos that made my son sponsor the design of a wolf howling at a full moon on my shoulder. I had no particular reason behind getting inked except for my love for seeing some art form on my body,” says a beaming Vinu. “I am still open to the idea of getting more tattoos and may get another one soon,” he adds.
Surprisingly the majority of tattoo lovers are young professionals. More and more are coming forward to get something symbolic of their professions. The floating crowd, like naval officers, divers, musicians and also settled professionals like doctors, engineers and businessmen have been increasingly asking for tattoos. The third category consists of those who go in for tattoos that hold some deeper emotional meaning. These tattoos range from graphical representation of family, names of the loved ones, something symbolic for a missed one, religious beliefs or just a constant reminder to themselves.
Robbie Mathew, online content manager, went under the needle to get a calligraphic ‘I AM’ on his left arm. “I was a little tensed about the pain but looking at what it meant to me, I was ready to go through it. For me, this ‘I AM’ is a reminder to live in now. To be what is expected of me in this particular moment without looking back at the past or anticipating the future. This tattoo gives me strength.”
However, the permanence of the tattoo can be a sticky issue for those who get inked without much forethought. Removing tattoos is not only expensive but a complicated procedure too. Sometimes, it can even leave a permanent mark on the body. “This mostly happens with people who get names tattooed. Nowadays, it has become common to get your boyfriend’s, girlfriend’s or even fiancee’s names tattooed. Tattoos last much longer than some relationships and it is then when people opt to change it. Adding more elements or even completely changing it is possible,” says Pramod.