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?