With Tiruchi youth willing to present their body as canvas, tattoo artistes are offering a novel blend of local and Western representations

Branding the body is something which Tiruchi may have taken to only recently, but over the years, the city has steadily grown into a tattooing hub for surrounding districts.

Two young gentlemen, attired in a decidedly punk style, man Nivedha Fashion Planet, at 8th cross , Thillai Nagar. Claiming to be the forerunner in introducing tattooing in the city in 2003, the parlour is run by three brothers who rose from humble beginnings (their father Haji Mohammed was a tea-shop owner). According to Faisal, one of the trio, “We owe our long run in the business to the strict standards of hygiene we maintain. Besides, we never allow people below eighteen to get tattoos.”

The parlour provides a choice of tattoos in black and white, and colours, depending on the complexion of the person.

Surprisingly, a large number of clients are from outside the city, mainly from Pudukottai and Kumbakonam, “There are no tattoo parlours there and people from villages come here to get pictures of their favourite gods and goddesses tattooed. Showing the works of main tattoo artist Afzal (who was away), Faisal says, “We have attempted tattoos with deeper meanings and we try to educate our customers on their choices.” His elder brother Azam adds, “Earlier, we used to do temporary tattoos, but of late, we have done permanent ones.” But all tattoos are not meant to last. “We try to discourage youth from trying to tattoo the names of their partners,” he grins. “We end up removing a large number of these later.”

Shaded tattoos and 3D designs are the latest in the tattooing world, says Philip, proprietor of Skin Art Tattoo Studio, a small but well-maintained parlour off the Karur Bye-pass Road. Educated at a school for tattooing in Chennai, proprietor Philip represents the young side of tattooing in Tiruchi. “A majority of my clients are youth, though there are few women,” he admits.

Presenting one’s body as a canvas is an act of courage and trust, which tattoo parlours here seem to have taken seriously. With a clever mix of local representations like pictures of gods and goddesses and western influences, tattooing scene in the city is evolving yet inspired.