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Do you think before you ink?

Some tattoos make for indelible memories, others make for incredulous mistakes. Here are stories of life after the needle.

brunch Updated: Sep 19, 2015 20:54 IST
Pooja Biraia Anand
Pooja Biraia Anand
Hindustan Times

Would you get a tattoo? More than 10 years after inking became a cool thing to do in India, many people still think it’s a cool thing to do. After all, it’s a “rebellious” act. An individualistic thing. And there’s pain involved too – so getting a tattoo shows how committed you are to your aesthetics and yourself.

But as we’ve all learned about relationships of all sorts, commitment doesn’t always lead to peace and beauty. Meet the people who suffered pain – only to suffer more pain when their tattoos were done.

Cute to acute

Astha Verma, 24, who recently got engaged and is due to get married by the end of the year, is doomed to wear full sleeve shirts for at least a month now.

“One day, just out of the blue, I thought of surprising my father by inking my forearm to symbolise our closeness, but when I did get it done, I was so embarrassed that I’ve never shown it to him,” says Verma.

Delhi-based Verma had gathered her fiancé and her best friend, gulped down a Breezer for some Dutch courage, and gone to a tattoo artist in Subhash Nagar. She asked him to ink ‘Daddy’s Angel’ on her forearm.

Three and a half hours later, what she saw on her forearm was Daddy’s Angle’.

Now, Verma, who works with Larsen & Toubro, cannot rectify her tattoo for at least a month and has to put up with funny remarks and full-sleeved kurtis.

“I have to hide myself for 30 long days,” she says mournfully. “I hope it’s corrected by the time I get married and I vow to never do it again.”

Don't drink and ink

Kunal Ojha’s 2001 post-exam holiday in Goa meant one big thing: the opportunity to get a tattoo. “I desperately wanted one and there was no way I was returning from that trip without getting one,” he says.

One drunken night, Ojha, then aged 24, decided he didn’t want to wait for his tattoo till the next morning. So he gatecrashed the tattoo artist’s studio that night itself – only to find the inker also drunk.

That didn’t dampen Ojha’s enthusiasm though. Despite the fact that the artist warned him that drunken inking could lead to error, Ojha insisted on the needles. “I asked him to do a lion because I’m a Leo by birth. The job took a good four hours, until 5am.”

Too drowsy to really look at his lion, Ojha and his friends went back to their apartment to crash – and crashed for real when they woke up that afternoon and took a really good look at the tattoo.

“I was red with embarrassment,” laughs Ojha. “The artist had done me a pouncing lion, but it had five legs instead of four!”

Almost a decade later, Ojha, a Jaipur-based entrepreneur and contractor with the PWD department, had the tattoo corrected. But the incident did not cause an aversion to the ink. “I decided to continue with the theme of lions, and added a lioness and a cub to symbolise my family,” he grins.

What the devil

A follower of heavy metal and Satanism, Akarshak Mishra got his first tattoo at the age of 19. “I decided to have the number 666 tattooed, as it corresponds to Satan,” he says.

But once home, Mishra found the devil had risen. “My parents refused to speak to me. My father almost threw me out of the house, saying that it was taboo for a Brahmin family like ours to indulge in tattoos,” he says. “The Satanic number added fuel to the fire.”

Mishra later lost interest in heavy metal and he decided to cover up the tattoo “as an act of redemption and to reclaim my space in my own house.”

So his friend suggested that he convert the 666 into the Chinese yin-yang symbol. “I failed to see how it looked like yin-yang. Moreover, the red colour the tattoo artist used made it look like a cartoon.”

Mishra decided to get it corrected again. This time he wanted to write his father’s name around it. “What I finally got looks like a cricket ball farting fire, with my dad’s name in the middle,” he says. The tattoo only made life worse for Mishra. “My mother has given up on me,” he says sadly.

Fight, fight

When Shalki Khanna, a marketing student from K J Somaiya College, was 18 years old, she went to get a tattoo along with her best friend. “This was our way of raising a toast to our friendship,” says Khanna, now 23 years old. “We decided that we would get a tattoo each.”

But Khanna’s tattoo went horribly wrong. “My friend got a bear paw, which came out quite decent if not very good. But that wasn’t the case with my tattoo. What should have looked like a cross looked like a dagger.”

Perhaps that dagger had something to do with what happened a few months later – Khanna and her friend had a massive fight and were friends no longer. “I thought we were like soul mates, but obviously not,” says Khanna.

At first, Khanna decided to retain her tattoo as a reminder to be vigilant about trusting people. “But it was so badly done, that I had to get it covered up,” she says. a slip

The sea was rough and the ship was wobbly. But that did not stop 30-year-old merchant navy officer Neil Sonalkar from asking his artist friend to bring on the needles. “A few days before returning home in September 2011, when we were close to Sydney harbour, I got my friend to start on the letter ‘N’ on my arm,” says Sonalkar.

One end of the vertical side of the letter was supposed to be shaped into an anchor. And just as Sonalkar’s friend was etching the anchor line, the ship jerked, and what Sonalkar got was a 45 degree curve instead.”
It looked nothing like an anchor.

To save face, Sonalkar claimed it was ‘an important Arabic word.’ “But not everyone bought it,” he laughs. Sonalkar wore the damaged tattoo for two years, before having it superimposed in May 2013 by Amrit, a tattoo artist from Mumbai.

(Im)Permanent black

Twenty-nine-year-old Sonal Patel, an art gallery executive from Mumbai had decided to ink her boyfriend’s name on the nape of her neck. “That was six years ago,” says Patel. “We had been dating for over a year and I wanted his name etched in my life forever.”

But her boyfriend, it seemed, did not like permanency. “He was upset that I had an irreversible mark on my body,” says Patel. “That the mark was his own name didn’t matter. We never clicked a single picture of the two of us with the tattoo showing.”

Three years later, after Sonal fell out with her boyfriend, she went to Chirag Jhala, a tattoo artist from Mumbai. “Keeping that tattoo once the relationship was over made me sick,” she says. “Now that it has been covered up with an angel with a heart, I’m happy.”

From HT Brunch, September 20
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