Imprints for life

Using body as a canvas R. VaishnaviPhoto: S. Siva Saravanan  

R.Vaishnavi says she is a “ pucca Tamil girl”, with a flair for art, who grew up drawing kolams with her grandmother at home. An interest in water colour paintings gradually evolved into a curiosity for body art. And, soon the mother of two packed her bags to New Delhi, to train in the art of tattooing under the mentorship of Kamal Deep Singh, whose clients have created Guinness records for sporting the highest number of tattoos. It was only after five months of training, she says she could hold the needle machine steadily and with confidence.

Yara Tattoos, her studio which she opened in Coimbatore in January, is tucked away in an inconspicuous corner near Kannan Departmental Stores on Trichy Road. Behind a table sits our tattoo lady, sporting a bob and funky tattoos — a floral design on her wrist and a smiling Shiva and Parvati, locked in an embrace, on her arm. “There is one on my back too,” she laughs. Thanks to her smiling demeanour many of her clients are now her best pals.

There is an air of calm about the studio. The walls are painted yellow and Vaishnavi’s water colour paintings hang on the wall. A smiling Buddha sculpture surveys you from a shelf. Along with the sterilised machines, disinfectants and creams, there is also a veena.

During her free time, Vaishnavi plays the veena. “People are both amused and impressed, when they see me playing the veena,” she winks.

It’s already a favourite haunt for fashion-conscious college girls, lovers and movie buffs. “Getting a tattoo is 90 per cent an emotional decision. It mirrors your heart. It is not just for body beautification,” explains Vaishnavi.

People choose motifs based on their passion, a longing for something or someone, an inspirational quote that will fix their blues, or their zodiac signs.

There is a big demand for tattoos sported by television actors in their favourite soaps. Girls in Coimbatore prefer smaller tattoos, says Vaishnavi. “They like getting it done on their wrists or necks. Floral designs are very in now.” Guys want her to sketch their favourite stars’ names on their arms. “There is a big demand for the tattooo that Vikram sports,” says Vaishnavi.

Deities are also popular. “Buddha was my first tattoo. It gives you good vibes.” Sometimes there are intricate tattoos which take hours to accomplish. She points to a photograph of a Ganesha tattoo on a guy’s bicep, which took her 18 hours to do! “Everything for him was his god. He was ready to spend quite a big sum on this.”

Tattoo as a fashion statement is picking up in the city, she says. Initially, people did not respond so well to her. But, gradually people started coming in thanks to word of mouth and FB updates.

There is a stigma on body art, says Vaishnavi. “But, isn’t this exactly what our ancestors did? Tattoos are just another spin off of pachchai kuthirathu.

She also specialises in coloured tattoos. “But, I would recommend my clients to go for the black ones because they do not wear off easily.” She also suggests other patterns depending on client taste and profession. (She feels I must go in for something that stands for independence and freedom).

Sometimes, her job requires her to be a counsellor too! “Some of them decide to tattoo their girlfriend’s name and I warn them. Usually,a no-nonsense friend talks these people out of the idea. One of my clients had to conceal a tattoo of his ex’s name with something else after he broke up with her.”

And then, “one guy wanted to remember his mother, who died of cancer. So, he wanted to have a symbol of cancer on his hand. I advised him that it will have a negative influence on him and we settled for something else.”

Art was a favourite getaway for Vaishnavi to escape from the chaos of the real world, including a bad marriage. And, she is determined that she won’t pay much attention to those who frown at her for doing what gives her joy.

To be a woman tattoo artiste is definitely not easy as it comes with its baggage of social stigma. “I had a tough time convincing some of my relatives. I would tell them I saw it as an art form. Instead of the canvass, I am using body as a paper.”

Fortunately, her parents and children have been supportive of her creative pursuits. “My kids collect newspaper articles on me and show it off in school,” she smiles. She says she draws strength from them, as she shows me her third tattoo — their names.

For more details, call 97915-07646 or visit

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 10:02:14 PM |

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