This is in response to Dr. Tiny Nair’s article ‘Tattoo may be the in-thing but your problems won’t be skin-deep'(The Hindu, Open Page, March 30, 2013). It must have been well received, especially by parents. This is just an effort to remove the scepticism about this beautiful art.

Let me begin from where you ended; in this era where fashion changes every day, and nothing is permanent, a permanent art which will be fashionable forever is a rarity. The fact that once inked, it doesn’t change normally is THE reason most people specifically like tattooing. It is “more fascinating than costly jewellery and cannot be lost, borrowed or stolen.” It is a memento we can keep throughout the life and retain after death. The art has been patronised by all ranks and classes, including royalty, nobility and society.

There is no other form of art which is so personal and yet so expressive. It may mean different things to different persons; for some, a dragon may signify the force within that makes them ready for challenges. A partner’s name inked is meant to be for life — showing dedication and commitment. Personally, I have a pair of angel wings — signifying a guardian angel, assuring me of a force unknown which is always there to take care of me. Nothing is more passionate than a club badge on a person’s body — the team kit doesn’t even come close — because it can be shed, it’s not permanent. When you ink something, it is for life. And why would someone think of the cost of removing when clearly they don’t want to remove it.

The point is, the ink will always be awesome! In fact, with the passage of time it gets even more interesting. Also, tattooing has been prevalent in India for long; the ‘artists’ in the ‘melas’ would do it for a very cheap amount, so it must have been quite a craze those days. Even today, some villages have that kind of artists. This was in no way safe.

Technology has been refined a lot nowadays, and most of the respected tattoo artists have their own studios. And the place resembles an operation theatre, with the utmost care taken from hygiene to safety. All inks used are of international standards and every individual is worked on with a brand new needle. The studio ambience ensures that the person tattooed is comfortable and experiences happiness. Very strict safety standards are followed.

Getting oneself inked at some dingy, shabby shop-like studio in a by-lane surely is fraught with risks and must be avoided. Getting inked at such places is akin to donating blood at shabby camps. ‘Good tattoos ain’t cheap and cheap tattoos ain’t good’ — brilliantly sums up the discretion to be followed. Medical complications arising from ink are isolated incidents.

Tattoos have been part of human civilisation for ages. For instance, the legacy of Polynesian tattoo began over 2000 years ago, mainly to define rank and title among the tribes. Tattooing ceremony was conducted at the onset of puberty — an elaborate affair as it was a key part of ascendance to a leadership role. The permanent marks left by the tattoo artists would forever celebrate their endurance and dedication to cultural traditions. Those who could not endure pain and abandoned tattooing were left incomplete, wearing their mark of shame throughout their lives. So if it was so harmful to the skin as you claim — poor dermis having to suffer — I am sure the art would not have taken off in the first place. The pain involved in tattooing is spiritual as far as I am concerned. And if the pain is a problem for some, local anaesthesia is available, though I would not recommend it; going through the pain is part of the process! No pain, no gain!

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