Stylish impressions

SOME SAY it is a permanent reminder of temporary insanity, while others look it as an expression of attitude, but this ancient Egyptian form of body art or tattoo seem to be among the most happening fashion statements. But, be it that little butterfly preparing to fly off the shoulder or a barbed wire trying to asphyxiate the biceps, this practice of making a design on the skin seem to have more to it than just an expression of attitude or the ability to be in vogue.

For millions of years tattooing tradition has been part of various ancient civilisations. However, the modern version has a new dimension to it with the comeback of spaghetti tops, cropped capris, sleeveless t-shirts and low waist jeans that provide ample space to flaunt the designs.

"Call it weird, wacky, fashionable or funky flaunting a tattoo on the arm, near the shoulder blade, collarbone, around the navel, way down the back, or on the ankle is all the rage now," says Praveen Khatri of Rock, a store for outlandish clothes, jewellery and accessories. As a former drawing teacher in a city based school, Praveen took special training in doing tattoos before he started it a couple of months ago in his shop. "I get a lot of enquiries for tattoos but I talk to the client and find out if they are really interested in having one before I do it." Apart from talking to every client before tattooing Praveen is also particular that he will not do it for people below 18, "I don't know if they are here with their parents permission. So, I tell them to come back with their parents and most of them don't come back at all," he smiles.

VJ Cary of SS Music feels that city-bred fashion conscious youth certainly don't seem to mind the needle pricking into their skin in rapid successions to make a statement. "I had my first tattoo when I was sixteen. It was rare then, but now every third person in my office seem to sport a tattoo." For Cary his tattoos are not just style symbols they are reminders of instances in his life. "The design on my calf is reminder of a dear friend. The one on my arm, my first one, represents circle of life. Another one is an African design symbolising growth."

Until recently Goa was the hot destination for tattoos. But safety comes first for today's youngsters, who would rather go to someone who uses disposable needles than a roadside dealer doing tattoos for cheap prices. The fear of pain and infection, contracting AIDS or hepatitis virus was also predominant when tattoos were linked more with drug abusers. However, the use of disposable needles, gloves, dyes, and anaesthetics now seem to have wiped off any possible panic.

Arjun who had a tattoo done recently says, "It is not all that painful. Of course, initially, there is a pricky feeling but then after a few minutes you get used to it. My friends liked it and one of them is seriously considering to get it done." Arjun who has a barbed wire around his biceps is already considering having a Greek pattern symbolising health on his shoulder.

Apart from barbed wire, the Holy Cross, the Om sign, tribal symbols, sun, flames, butterflies, dolphins, sharks, zodiac signs, fiery dragon, Chinese symbols, Sanskrit shlokas, hearts... are some of the common patterns. Arms and the upper back are favourite spots for the guys to have tattoos while girls prefer to have their lower back or navel tattooed. "Now the graphic designs are in vogue. But then I got a scorpio on my shoulder because my zodiac is Scorpio," says Sneha.

Tattoos can be done by hand or machines. They are usually done on areas where there is more flesh and less bone. "Tattooing is an art and the artist should make sure the pigment lodges itself between the dermis and epidermis layers of the skin. We import synthetic pigments from the U.S., U.K., and South-east Asian countries," adds Praveen. His tattoos cost anywhere from Rs. 800 to a couple thousands depending on the designs.

"People want tattoos because they like to stand out in a crowd. They don't mind going through the pain. It also means that you can take a decision that you will stick to for life," says Rajan, who had a tattoo done six years ago.

Tattoos take a week to heal if they are just outlines. Those with fillings take two to three weeks to heal. Dermatologists can erase permanent tattoos with lasers, though not completely always. But if you don't take care, you can get infections.

"Tattoos also seem to be popular among kids. Freebies have popularised tattoos and children walk into the parlour with specific designs in their mind. Their intention is only fun and they are always accompanied by their parents," says Jagadish of Limelite beauty salon. However, he adds that black mehendi tattoos are more popular compared to the permanent ones. "Reasonable degree of excitement about the tattoo is there but people still want to get rid of it once the party or celebration is over. In such cases these temporary ones come in handy."

The thought of growing old with the tattoos also puts off some youngsters. "I decided against having one as the idea of having to live with it until your skin wrinkles and it fades off is uninspiring," says Sona.

Mehendi tattoos fade off in about three weeks to a month. However equal care has to be taken for these tattoos too. A temporary tattoo could cost from Rs. 150 upwards depending on the design. "We normally have a good number of people coming for temporary tattoos during Valentine's day, where they want to etch their girl friend's or boy friend's names. However, we strictly advice them not to have names done as a permanent tattoo," adds Jagadish.

"People also come to us to have their mole tattooed as part of the beauty treatment, this involves giving local anaesthesia and working on it to form a beautiful design," says a Lakme salon staffer. Be it permanent or temporary, the after tattoo care is rather important. As VJ Cary says, "treat it like a wound, do not cover or bandage it until it is fully healed and avoid going near chlorinated or salt water and oil for the first few weeks."

Well if you still think it takes such a piercing force to be different, stand out and tattoo yourself.