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Express yourself, get yourself tatooed!

I know tattoos aren’t nearly as important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still a decision that you can’t really go back on once made. Anoushka Shankar on getting tatooed.

india Updated: May 29, 2009 20:35 IST
Anoushka Shankar column

Some things require a great deal of thought. Like getting married. Or having a child. Or getting a tattoo! I know tattoos aren’t nearly as important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still a decision that you can’t really go back on once made, and which therefore requires a lot of thought. Not that I’ve followed my own advice in the past!

Both my tattoos were impulse acquisitions that came about when I was driving by a tattoo parlour, and suddenly had a flash of what design I wanted, and where. But each time, I’d been wanting to get a tattoo for ages, and when the image came to mind I knew instinctively it was right.

However, I’ve been dying to get a new tattoo, and I’ve been waiting and waiting for inspiration to strike. So far, I’ve got nothing. I have some ideas but I’m yet to have that “Ah ha!” moment that will send me running back to the chair.
People often say my nose stud is a distinctive part of my “look”. But not many people know I’ve had my belly button pierced since I was 20.

Recently, I had decided I was too old for a piercing like that. I went through a phase of thinking it was time to “grow up”, and thought letting my belly button reflect that was a very “mature” decision. But six months later, I found I was missing it, and not ready to say goodbye to that “younger” side of myself. Plus, I just think they’re pretty. I’m so lucky it hadn’t closed up! I’m still a girl with eight piercings and two tattoos. Though that sounds wilder than it is, I promise.

Every culture has had a tradition of piercing, tattooing, scarring or painting the body. It’s fascinating to study what is considered beautiful in the world, from Maori face-tattooing to punk body-piercing. People use body art to express who they are and what they believe in, and I’m a big fan of that. But one has to be careful when getting body art. I’m able to hide my tattoos when I need to, and I’ll appreciate that as an elderly lady in a sari some day in the future!

Something as straightforward as an earring on a man can be totally unacceptable in certain places of work. Having a tattoo on the forearm can create a lifetime of difficulties getting certain jobs. And here’s an obvious issue: intrinsically, people change! The panther that seemed so cool jumping across your hipbone once, won’t be as lovely after three children and a few years make their marks on your body.

Thank God I wasn’t allowed to get tattoos at 15, otherwise, that stupid panther would’ve been my problem.