4th India International Tattoo Convention

I went to the convention today and yesterday.  The convention was in Faridabad Sector 12 and ran from November 11th – 13th.

I had met my artist twice in the studio in Gurgaon and ended up doing my tattoo at the convention, especially considering that I had never been to a tattoo convention before despite Hawaii holding one every year in August.  I designed my tattoo and my artist, Raju of Funky Monkey, polished it off and added a sacred geometry backdrop.  The main focus of my tattoo is my two dogs, Logan and Myron.  I’ve been toying with the idea of a dog tattoo for a while despite everyone telling me not to do it.  Sure it’s a commitment, but I love my dogs very much and love for a dog is completely different than for that of another human.  First, a dog will never hurt you the way a human will, so that’s reason enough for me!  I think dogs are just magical creatures that deserve to live forever in a garden full of dog treats and an ever-flowing river of gravy.  Anyway, so my tattoo is based around their faces, and they are surrounded by five hibiscus flowers, each representing a member of my family.  I picked the hibiscus because throughout my time in India, whenever I saw a hibiscus, I thought of home.  The flower will be a joint reminder of home and my extended time away from it.  I also have the phrase “Jahan dil hai, vahan ghar hai” in devanagari, which is a loose translation of “Home is where the heart is,” literally “Where the heart is, there is home.”  This tattoo is special to me because it’s the first tattoo I’ve ever really conceptualized and designed myself, and it’s very meaningful to me.  I love my dogs of course, but I also really love my family more than anything else in this entire world and it’s about time I do the Hawaii thing and get an ‘ohana-themed tattoo.  I think it’s also fitting that the tattoo ended up covering a keloid I have as a result of self-harm (which hurt terribly; tattoo over scar tissue is a pain) We finished the outline for the tattoo yesterday which took about 3.5 – 4 hours.  We just need to color in the flowers and tattoo Logan and Myron’s faces and we’re done.  Raju estimated about another four hours or so, especially since he wants to add dotwork to the geometry filler.

I really loved Raju as an artist; he really listened to what I wanted and he was so light handed.  My tattoo did not hurt at all until he reached a small part of the ribbon that dipped into my armpit.  Other than that, no pain whatsoever!  If you’re in Delhi, I’d definitely recommend Raju at Funk Monkey, or just Funky Monkey in general.  They are located in DLF City Centre Gurgaon, second floor.  I was initially going to go to Devil’z Tattooz in Greater Kailash but ended up at Funky Monkey through  recommendation (a friend of a friend recently got a tattoo done there and used to work there).  A recommendation is always better than Internet searches, I think.  Devil’z Tattooz was also at the convention.

As I was waiting for Raju to prep my tattoo, I dangerously strolled around the convention (I say “dangerously” because with so many tattoo artists staring you in the face, it’s hard not to get another, and another, and another…) and found myself looking at a bunch of cute traditional-style flash tattoos.  I flipped through the portfolio and decided, “I’d love if this guy did my peonies!”  Just then, one of the artists came up to me and said “Hi, you lookin’ to get tattooed?”  This was Alex from Kids Love Ink in London.  I told him what I wanted and he took a look at my arm and said he could draw something up for me overnight.  The only issue here was that I did not have any money considering that PM Modi thought it would be a great idea to demonetize all 500 and 1,000 bills overnight.  Luckily, Alex said I could pay him through PayPal, which worked out perfectly.  So I went home, slept excitedly, and went back to Faridabad today for my peony piece with Alex.  This piece took about 2.5 – 3 hours.  Alex, just like Raju, was a great conversationalist and the time flew by.  There was another artist from the shop there with him who started a tattoo just about halfway through mine.  Alex’s style is traditional, and he enjoys doing floral and animal pieces.

It’s always important for me to get along well with my artist because I do not want someone who is going to affect my body forever to be someone whom I do not like or am indifferent about.  I’ve always been lucky with my artists in this regard; they’ve usually always been nice, funny, and witty.  Alex and his shopmates are actually the first Brits I’ve ever met, so that was fun for me (and my suspicions have been confirmed — America is the butt of the joke most of the time).

I’ll also digress (maybe) for a bit: I think it’s important for your artist to enjoy what they are doing just as much as you should enjoy what you are receiving.  While Alex was doing my tattoo, we (him, his shopmate, and myself) began to discuss the differences in tattoo culture between India and America/England and one of the things we noticed that most was that India is very into realism (photorealistic tattoos).  It takes immense talent to do things like that, but that isn’t my taste.  I’m more in the traditional line, fawning over bold outlines and subtle colors.  But a lot of the people at the convention were getting photorealistic tattoos done, and from people who did not do photorealistic tattoos (judging by their portfolios).  For example, Alex’s shopmate also does traditional but ended up doing a tribal-style tattoo with devanagari.  Personally, that did not make sense to me since there was another artist from Italy who did specialize in tribal tattoos (really amazing, Tribal Tattoo Torino) and many other India-based artists who could to both the tribal design as well as the devanagari.  I picked Alex because I saw his portfolio and it matched what I wanted; when I went to Funky Monkey, Raju was called out into the shop to consult with me and as I talked to him during my tattoo, said he enjoys doing the type of tattoo I wanted to have done.  My point is that although an artist does tattoos, there is often something they enjoy doing over all else, and I think it’s fair to go to the appropriate artist for a certain type of tattoo.  You don’t go to a cardiologist for nephrological issues.  Also, be respectful and do not try to get another artist to duplicate someone else’s work…while we were doing my tattoo, a man asked to take Alex’s portfolio to the booth across the walkway to which he said, “No, that has to stay here.  They can come here” and he really did want to get one of Alex’s works duplicated by the other artist.  That’s bad tattoo etiquette if I’ve ever seen it!  I’ve also noticed that Indian tattoo culture is based off of duplication; it isn’t so much custom tattoos, but portraits, celebrities’ tattoos, or images pulled off of the internet.

Anyway, I spent half a lakh on tattoos over the weekend.  My host family said the 35,000 FM charged me was too much since the girl who stayed with them last year got a very intricate tattoo for 17,000, but I said, “Well you said her tattoo was done in Paharganj, right?” which it was.  FM has a good reputation and is a well-known shop.  I’m willing to pay for that when it comes to something like a tattoo that can adversely affect my health if not done by the best people in the best conditions.  I’m used to spending in that neighborhood for tattoos, anyway (I only go to upscale, nice shops; I’m a snob about this and would never get a tattoo in Paharganj).  I don’t mind paying a lot for a tattoo because it’s something that will last forever, and what’s a hefty price tag for a beautiful piece of artwork on your skin and someone’s talent?

In two weeks I will be heading back to Gurgaon to finish off my tattoo, and Raju said he’ll also be drafting something up (geometric floral dotwork) to fill the gap between my shisa and the tattoo he’s working on.  As much as I do love tattoos, I’m not quite sure if I’m ready to cover that much of my body quite yet.  We’ll see when I get there.


PS. My fiancé does not like tattoos at all.  He said that to him they are “uglier than cellulite” and I did cheesily retort, “Well it’s my body, so…”  I love tattoos and this weekend confirmed it.  I love sitting there and seeing ink being put into my skin, and I’ve grown to love the hum of the machines.  The tattooed community is also amazing in general and everyone at the convention was so friendly and curious about everyone’s tattoos.  People frequently ask me two things concerning my tattoos: “How will you get a job?” and “What will you look like when you’re older, though?”  Aside from the medical and teaching fields, I’m not sure how much more conservative a job can get than where I work right now — a credit union.  How do my gross, offensive, criminal, unsophisticated tattoos go undetected at work?  Because I wear clothes.  I wear long sleeves (or a light cardigan if I wear a short sleeve/sleeveless blouse) and slacks; it’s as simple as that.  As far as what I will look like when I get older, I will look like an adorable old Japanese obaachan with tattoos who may or may not have yakuza ties.  What if my children want them?  They can get them.  My mom has had tattoos for as long as I can remember and I always admired them.  She doesn’t like the way I do my tattoos, but she never tells me that I cannot get them (unlike with facial piercings).  I think tattoos are beautiful, and if you don’t like them, that’s your deal.  We realize that what we’ve done is pretty much permanent.  We do not regret them and most people love their tattoos to bits, but what makes you think it’s okay to point out how unseemly, unprofessional, unsophisticated, unbecoming, or what have you, these pieces of us are?


2016 Presidential Election

I am proud to be an American and I’m happy to be an American, and I know I am lucky to be an American.  I’m greatly privileged for just having been born in America.  But I am so saddened by the fact that we’ve pretty much elected an intolerant, Islamophobic, misogynistic bigot for President.  We have made so much progress in the last century as a country, and Trump + Pence will – if not bring it to ruin – take us back to the 1950s where women had no control over their own bodies and those with non-heterosexual preferences lived in fear and even great inequality.  It’s 2016…how did this happen?

How to Join Our Team!

Prior to leaving India, I had a job.  A very good one at that.  My official title was “Office Assistant.”  I was hired barely six months after I graduated high school.  I started out in the Marketing Department and was moved to Loans where I worked for the next four and a half years.  In May I was moved again to the New Accounts department, which I was not happy about.  It isn’t that I don’t like that department (I like the people in that department) but I don’t like the work there.  I grew to love everyone in the Loan department and I didn’t mind the work there.  New Accounts work – because I wasn’t fully trained – was monotonous.  I was never truly really fully trained for anything because I’m a part-time employee and everyone knows I plan on leaving eventually. The President frequently tells me that I will have a full-time job the moment I say I want one.  I just graduated college in May so I think he was hoping I’d choose to commit myself fully, but instead I left for India and started my Master’s program.  He said a position would still be open for me if I decided to come back (I think we both knew it was “when,” not “if”).

I go home in less than a month, and a week ago I wrote to the VP of HR asking about how it looked for me.  She said she’d get back to me when she had a definitive answer about my placement.

I have this job because of my mom.  She has been working there since 2004 and has climbed the ladder to Branch Manager.  At the time I was hired, the Pres. asked my mom what I was doing since I had graduated high school not too long ago.  He asked her this two weeks after I quit my first and worst job without another one lined up.  I applied and interviewed at Macy’s and David’s Bridal.  I didn’t get past an initial interview at Macy’s because I wasn’t willing to miss class for work.  At DB, I made it past the initial group interview and to a second individual one but didn’t make the cut because I didn’t have any commission experience.  So, I had no job and doubted my decision to quit my job even though I hated it with every fiber of my being.  Then one night, my mom said, “How would you like to work with us?  He said you would be put into Marketing as an assistant, working on news letters and things like that.  Just show up every day and do your best, don’t embarrass me!”  I’ve been so thankful for my job ever since.

At first, I was uncomfortable being around 60+ people on a daily basis, especially since they were so much older than me (even now, I believe only one or two people are younger than me).  Since my mom had been working there for eight years at this point, I had met a handful of people on a few occasions but regardless of whether they’d met me prior, I was treated as her daughter and that bothered me.  After about two or three years working, people really started to interact with me forgetting that I was another co-worker’s daughter.  I became my own person there, I suppose.  I really love some of my co-workers.  Real love, the way you love family and friends.  They’re my second family, and I love that everyone at my work place refers to everyone else as family.  I’m particularly close to a handful of people, and before I left, a bunch of my co-workers gave me envelopes with cards and money totaling roughly $250 – $300.  From co-workers!  One hugged me on my last day of work and we looked at each other and both had tears in our eyes.  Another one avoided me the day before I left (I went in to drop off donuts and goodies for my departments) because she was sad and didn’t want to see me and cry (I would have cried if I said bye or hugged her, quite honestly).  I almost cried when I said goodbye to the VP of HR because she sounded like she was going to cry when she told me to have fun but that I needed to come back to them.  I almost cried when my “surrogate dad” (as my mom calls him) hugged me as I got into the elevator.  <- That co-worker is one of my absolute favorites.  He’s extremely sarcastic with a biting wit and is the “house chef.”  He bakes fresh bread on Fridays and often serves it with homemade tapenade or pesto, and others will bring assortments of cold cuts and cheeses  for us to snack on since Fridays we work 8:30am – 6:15pm.  He taught me how to bake no-knead bread and mochi.  Some days I’d get to work and he would have prepared breakfast for me, whether eggs or a full breakfast burrito.  Since I’m a poor college student and often eat sad, small lunches, he’ll often offer to cook lunch for me as he makes his own, or he’ll tell me to sit with him and share whatever he has (he’s a wonderful, wonderful cook).  He told me he’d look forward to seeing me when I come home, unless I meet a “rich, handsome, Indian prince” and decide to stay.  In retrospect, I think we all acted a bit silly since everyone knew I wasn’t quitting, but I guess going from seeing people five days a week to not at all for over four months is a drastic shift.

I’m lucky to work with people that evoke those kinds of emotions.  I’ve never once dreaded going to work because I didn’t want to be there.  There were days I didn’t want to go to work because I had a lot of homework or because I was sick, but never because I didn’t want to be there.  I’ve always been happy at work because I work for a wonderful company.  It isn’t even the gifts or parties we get.  On Christmas and New Year’s Eve we close half-day and everyone from the other branches will come to our branch (the main branch) and we’ll have lunch and play games.  At the end, everyone exchanges drawn-out hugs, wishes safe drives home, and says their goodbyes until the next day of work.  So many people have 20+ years of service.  So many people dedicating that much of their lives to our company is obviously a good sign.  Some have 40+ years.  I honestly cannot wait to go back to them in December, and I’ve thought about my co-workers regularly while in India.  I even brought with me photos from our employee party just days before I left for India.  The country club was serving endless mimosas so my face is red in all of the photos.

I’m thinking about this because this morning, I woke up to a message from my co-worker asking if I’d want to participate in the Loan Department Secret Santa.  I’m technically no longer part of that department, but it made me even more happy that they still want me to participate in their reindeer games (they even threw a potluck for me before I left). Of course I said yes.  I told HR to also put my name into the company-wide Secret Santa too.  The holidays are great at my work place.  HR will go around dressed up as elves and one male co-worker will always dress up as Santa (one year, someone from Sales – a man – dressed up as Mrs. Claus and distributed gifts) and pass out gifts.  It’s that everyone I work with is happy that makes it a good place.  HR and the appropriate managers who conduct interviews and do the hiring really take into consideration both background and their individual personality.  Everyone I work with meshes together so well, and that’s what makes my work place less of a building where we all come to do work, and more of a big, warm house full of laughter and love.  Seriously: my mom works on the first floor and I can hear her laughing from the second floor; the VP of HR and one of the loan officers have laughs so loud that you can hear them from the other end of the building (and they’re always laughing about something, trust me); members in the lobby will often laugh and ask what’s so funny when they can hear everyone laughing from the lunch room.  I’m an extremely lucky girl to have that kind of work environment.  Most days it doesn’t even feel like I’m going to work – I just feel like I’m going to a home away from home.

Roommate Schroommate

I constantly find myself reminding myself – through my teeth – that living with the girl who is my roommate here in Delhi is worth the $5,000 scholarship I got.  Barely.

The house is big, and we rarely see each other but when we do, I want to shoot myself.  She’s very nice and friendly, but I just cannot stand her and the friendlier she is to me and the enthusiasm with which she talks to me about things just makes me more and more irritated and less and less interested in talking to her.  There are some personalities with which I just cannot mix.

She has habits that irritate me.  For one, I buy my own produce here.  I buy bananas every week for shakes and my oatmeal, and I buy at least 2kgs of apples a week for snacks, oatmeal, and shakes.  She eats them.  Today, she reached for my last apple and made a comment about how big the apple was, so I said “Yeah I know, when I bought them I wanted the small ones but he only had those, so I just bought them” and she said, “Yeah I like the smaller ones more.  This one is so big…I only want half.  I just need to force myself to eat the rest of it I guess” and I just sat there thinking, “Okay Jacie well your plan totally back fired and she either doesn’t care that you bought those apples or she has selective hearing.”  That was my last apple and now I don’t have any for my post-gym shake tomorrow or for my morning oatmeal.  I’ve seen her buy produce twice, but even then she’ll only buy a small bunch of bananas or two to three apples for herself.  My friend told me to just hide the produce in my closet.  I’m considering it.

I’m also very protective of my pens (like, irrationally so).  I was doing homework in the living room on our floor and laid my pen down next to my notebooks.  When I came back from dinner, I found my highlighter but not my pen.  I moved everything on the table looking for it and I looked under the table as well.  My roommate looked at me and saw me looking for something, and I glanced at her and noticed she had my pen.  Being Asian and stereotypically soft-spoken, I did not say anything about it.  “Maybe you’re just assuming it’s your pen,” I thought.  This morning when I went back outside, I found that my pen was indeed with her things on the table.  This upset me more because I label all of my pens.  That particular pen had my middle name in it in kanji, and I know she does not know kanji and knew that it was not her pen.  It bothers me because I do not touch or use peoples’ things without their permission, so it bothers me when people use my things.  Especially someone I can already barely stand.

She also doesn’t flush the toilet (“If it’s yellow, let it mellow”).  And she also frequently forgets to turn the water heater off so when it’s my turn to take a shower, there is barely any hot water.

I go home in less than a month now, and I will be glad to never see her again.