Memories are what life, and tattoos are made of
There’s no way to ignore it. The sad little lotus on my right arm, looks wilted and uncared for. It needs revamping. But when I look at it, I’m reminded of that dewy morning I took the bus with Poet Rob. Hungover, still buzzing from my newly found freedom in thought and deed, we embarked upon drawing a memory forever on my arm.
So, 14 years later, I walk over to the tattoo booth, in the vibrant Mani Square, in Calcutta and I watch as passersby peer in through the window, longingly; a deeper part of them wondering whether this is what they need, what they want. After speaking to a few people, I ascertain, a tattoo is a marker for an event, like making an entry in a journal. For others it is the rouse of rebellion. “I knew my mother wouldn’t like it and it was kinda cool at the time!” says Gayatri, fondly remembering her 22-year- old self. Later though, three, more substantial reasons to have a tattoo happened. She has their names emblazoned on her back. “I’ll have them with me until I die,” she said.
When 23-year-old Sindhu, achieved her goal of getting into law school, she opted for the Chinese symbol of ‘dream’ on her ankle. The word, marking her determination and achievement, small yet proud, is a testament to all the hard work it took to get there.
Navinita, 26, chose ‘Rishi’s love’ in bold, flowing italics on the top of her arm. I’m not sure if it was Navinita or Rishi who chose that one, a beautiful sentiment, nonetheless?
After speaking to a few people about what tattoo they would choose, a number of them said they would go for their children’s names or a quote that meant something personal to them. They all agreed that it was an ‘expression of the self’. But that’s in the wiser, slightly older demographic.
Mahadev (not the omniscient deity of destruction, but the all-knowing tattoo artist at the booth in Mani Square) informed me that his younger clientele usually asked for stars, angels and butterflies. He also mentioned that the older ladies usually went for letters, names and symbols, with a few hardcore followers of the art, who came in with their own designs.
But what do you do if you regret your tattoo? If Navinita loses Rishi’s love and finally grows into herself? Or if Sindhu gets an amazing job where a tattoo is forbidden?
Laser tattoo removal seems to be the most viable option, but it is at least three times more expensive than and just as painful as the alternatives. If you’ve got something that’s in really bad shape you could have a skin graft. Ouch! Or, you could have it sanded off (dermabrasion) but you’ll end up with scars. I talk to Mahadev about my little lotus. He gives me some ideas about rejuvenating it. I’m tempted, I really am! In the end though, I look back and walk away. No regrets. It’s a memory, a symbol of who I was.
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