Jammu gets Ink’spired

Sunny Dua
Freshly carved out Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir while is grappling with menace of drugs, a maddening craze for tattoo and body piercing has started making its presence felt here in a big way with youngsters thronging tattoo artists’ shops to get inked.
In absence of any regulatory measures over half a dozen such shops have cropped up in Jammu where, ‘ink’spired from this art, youngsters are getting their skins needled with different designs, names, art works, religious signs and certain ghost like faces to flaunt in their social circles or prove their loyalties and love for their dear ones.
Those who earlier used to travel to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Mumbai or even abroad to get inked are now getting similar facilities here in Jammu though those into business are neither formally trained nor have any background of being an artist. Many have while over a period of time learnt the art and opened their shops, others are seeking some training from already established tattoo artists and inking skins to make money. Certain artists like Vinod Verma popularly known by his shop titled “Happy Tatoo” though follow certain ethics yet they want government to regulate this world of tattoo art for the safety of clients as well as artists.
“I used to deal in men’s accessories and sold stickers that youngsters pasted on their arms to flaunt. Later on the suggestion of some visitors, I went to Delhi, got myself trained and brought with me all the needed equipment to start inking skin here in Jammu since 2007. Every November a workshop is held in Delhi where tattoo artists and product sellers converge to exchange new and innovative techniques which I attend and bring home the same for our clients”, Verma said.
Claiming to be a self-taught tattoo artist, he goes on to add, “I always advise my clients to think thrice before getting tattoos done as several recruiting agencies like Indian army doesn’t honour candidates with inked or pierced bodies and many after failing in love, repent and run to get tattoos removed by any means. This also involves surgeries which is why I advise clients to not to rush through their desires just because someone else has tattoos on his/her body”. The instruments, inks, needles, hand stand, gloves and towels or wipers that artists like Happy use though are of high quality, sterilised and for one time use yet none of them ask for medical certificates from clients before carving tattoos on their bodies.
Boys and girls in Jammu, he said prefer to get Mom & Dad or their friends’ names written in their bodies. Many love getting faces of Lord Shiva and ‘Mahadev’ written on their arms. These tattoos, he said cost them anything between Rs 500 to even 70,000 but artists of that calibre are not available in Jammu who could make that hefty a sum. Journalist Aashish Kohli, a die-hard devotee of Lord Shiva has Mahadev on his right arm and very recently he got engraved “Balidan” a distinct insignia of the special Indian forces, which form part of the Parachute Regiment.
While some of the names can be inscribed on arms within five minutes many complicated art works require seven hour sittings. The easy availability of this art work in Jammu and Kashmir has enabled many to get inked. In some cases parents accompany their children for body piercing. Though most of these tattoo artists refuse to pierce body parts of children like their belly buttons/navel, tongues, ears, lips, eyebrows and collar bones yet many force themselves upon artists to get inked because there’s no law that bars them. Barring a few, no artist asks these children to produce their birth certificates. In many cases self taught artists even use local anaesthesia to carve tattoos or pierce bodies which is illegal as they are neither anaesthesiologists nor practising doctors.
Several children in Jammu have faced infections and suffered a lot. Contrarily, many young boys and girls are in a mad race to get permanent tattoos drawn on their bodies. Though there exists some temporary tattoos that fade away in a month time yet majority go in for permanent black and white as well as coloured tattoos. Unlike several westerners who prefer to get their bodies pierced or tattoos drawn for an emotional reason, young boys and girls here in Jammu and Kashmir are just following a trend that’s fast picking up.
Shockingly some of the tattoo artists in Jammu even use Manganese Oxide and carbon rods of a dry cell, mix it with oil and water to make a paste to be used as ink. This can be a dangerous trend and even cost clients their lives but in absence of any law these shops are being run brazenly without any check. Still bad is that hardly any artist is maintaining any record of clients. In the name of record what artists are keeping is art works done on clients’ skins only for their promotional works.
“I charge anything between Rs 500 to 1K for temporary religious tattoos and students can get four tattoos done in this money as a concession. Going by the ethics, I don’t make tattoos on moles and places where vaccination is done. However several artists also pierce these areas and make permanent tattoos there as well”, he added saying that this is against ethics and principles of our business.
Today when one has to shun anything between Rupees 3 to 5 lakhs to become a tattoo artist, several youngsters are banking upon hit and try method and giving people their desired tattoos in whatever manner they can. Verma said that 70 percent of people return to get tattoos erased for multiple reasons. “Many in Jammu claim to be erasing tattoos using lazer guns which to me sounds illegal and unethical because this is the job of a surgeon and not tattoo artist”, he emphasized adding that in one case a young boy scratched his tattoo with blade which was pathetic and completely unhygienic.
Jammu needs to regulate this art so that city becomes home to one of the most promising and finest professional tattoo artists. Everything here at tattoo parlours is done as a custom and many time professional artists are hired to make a particular design before engraving tattoo on the skin. The adrenaline that rushes though the blood makes both tattoo artists and client get addicted to the art and this is the reason many youngsters have got as many as 10 to 15 tattoos engraved on their limbs.
Happy says that tattoo parlour proprietors must secure licenses and permits before operating. The government must regulate this art so that people make sure that the tattoo parlour that they are engaging with prominently displays their permits which are up to date and also adhere to standards.