If you’re not already reading Kaustav’s blog about Indian Youth, I think you’d really enjoy doing so… Him and I have been emailing over the weekend he’s eccentric, entertaining and – perhaps more importantly here – terribly interesting and insightful…

His blog, Ingene, is the first ever Indian youth trend site and is full of stats, research findings and Kaustav’s marvelous musings. Since we’d written about tattoos last year, I was interested to see his take on tats too, and how the trend is more of a trickle down tactic, inspired by Bollywood celebrities and others in the Indian eye [76% of the respondents agreed that they’d be inspired by them]… Whilst for the majority of indian youth he interviewed [32%] are using ink to express themselves, there is also – as his charts show – an element of ‘conformance’ at play here [10%], whereby kids are getting tattoos to fit in and be part of something odd and oxymoronic really, but there you go… 31% were developing their own tattoos [a word I can never spell right the first time apparently, always want to put an ‘e’ in there somewhere], 19% left it up to the ink guy to decide and design. I also love the conspicuous element of where they’re getting their tattoos, with body places that are relatively hidden barely coming in to pretty play.

Here’s an extended interview with Kaustav about Indian youth and ink, nice:

What celebrities are influencing Indian youth to get tattoos?

Unfortunately, the concept of “Cool Tattoos” came through the mainstream Bollywood movie celebritiess [instead of coming from an underground/alternative route] which made tattooing “cool and acceptable” in India… Sanjay Dutt, for example, has 16 tattoos [the press say so..] over his ruined, aged, grumpy skin [and its not that he’s ‘grown’ with these tattoos, he got them done after he crossed 40!]… Tattoo[ing] is something luxurious here… You will often hear comments like ‘Oh, this tattoo? I got it done from LA… I go there for my regular shopping’… In that respect, it’s like the Chanel suit…the In’glo’dian youth are doing it to consciously present an image that they are more “Western” than the other half of “have nots”… Funky Monkey charges Rs.2000 for each square inch black line tattoo! With that money a BPO family can eat two meals a month… So, instead of a trickle up theory [as happened in West] tattooing in India followed the other root…the “trickle down theory”…

Are there any laws in India about getting a tattoo? Also, is there an age restriction on tattoos?

No. There’s no such law to date… The Indian government is full of grey hairs who don’t understand much about the impact of a tattoo [a mere graphic in somebody’s skin you know unless it becomes a symbol of Hate and Disgust and brings in religious / communal fight… Tattooing [among the youth] has not yet penetrated all the classes in India.

In India, the “affluent class” gets the “cool” tattoos done [other than North-Eastern side of India]…hence here it’s not a trend from “trash”… The cost of getting a tattoo done is absurdly high and the resources are limited. Here, the traditional tattoos are present from the time of first civilization… They are still used as a symbol of religion, sect, cast, spiritual faith, a sacred mark with will protect one from evil spirit… Also it’s a ritual in many villages to get their kids tattooed on their right hands, with his/her name, parent’s name, village name and so on… Which in process protects the kid from being lost… Hence, the democratic govt. of India actually can’t put a age restriction on it, since it’s a regular practice as a “safe guard” / “protective measure” and also a question of “identity”.

Are there any ‘typical’ tattoos other than the ones mentioned in your work?

You can divide tattoos into two categories, in India: the cool luxury tattoos [mostly black, sometime multicolored] and traditional tattoos… Even the process of doing both the tattoos are different, the traditional tattoos are done in a more traditional way… With needle and pigment, by hand prickling… ‘Cool’ tattoos are mostly done to exhibit one’s coolness to the clan and also to create a conscious aura around them that they can AFFORD such a big cool [sometime meaningless and ugly] tattoo… And sometimes, a tattoo is used to enhance particular body part, so people get them on their biceps, for example, and are like ‘yea, I’m in the gym everyday… Look at this… Just wait to see my six pack dude’

Can you ask one of your young friends about whether they want a tattoo for us?

I asked one of my young friends Radeesh, if he wants to have a tattoo and he said “I would love to get one done but I still haven’t found that one thing tht I would like to carry around all my life So when I do I will get one. But it would be something more meaningful. Not jst for the hec of get’n one…” I also asked him, do you think most youth gets the tattoos just because its cool? Perhaps without understanding its meaning? And he replied: “Well with some of them yes…Some1 rightly said…Tattoo is a permanent impression of a temporary insanity Lol…Yeh I’d agree with you but if u were to ask the ppl who have the tattoo they will always have a meaning[ful] story or reason for it”… Today, the smart tattoo artists in India are mixing the spirituality and coolness…so the tattoo has no reverse effect at home… It has a dual meaning…’hey son, why u got this skull done!!” ‘ehh pappa, its not just a skull, it’s a tantra symbol which is the sign tht will protect me from all evil spirits[lol] and will help me to go through all the hurdles…cake walk…u know’

Are there any other trends happening with tattoos and tattooing in India?

[Reply taken from here]: ‘Mike Cowasji, who’s been running Mike’s Body Art studio in CR Park for the past six years, is excited about the kind of designs Delhiites have suddenly developed a penchant for. “Previously, it used to be a small tattoo as people played it safe. Now, they want big tattoos. I’ve been doing a lot of black and grey washes, bringing out different shades of black, with water effects, images of mermaids, dragons, phoenix and even pagan symbols,” says Cowasji, 40. As an artist, he enjoys the new challenge to think big and ink big as well… The Gurgaon-based Funky Monkey tattoo studio says the God Shiva has become a hit too. “We do about four tattoos every day of the week and approximately seven during weekends. Big pieces of Shiva are in demand and we have a steady stream of women who want their children’s names tattooed as well,” says Hardy Mitra, 40, who started the tattoo studio eight years ago and has new outlets planned in Delhi and Kolkata. Younger girls, who come accompanied by parents, seem to have fallen in love with mythical animals like the unicorn and want one on themselves. The more bizarre, the better!”…[Kaustav]: Can you imagine a youth at London going with her mum to get her first Tattoo!! Its more like a celebration and status symbol here…nothing underground or alternative or has not evolved yet as a symbol of protest or remembrance… the RIP tattoos are not so common here unless its an RIP to Jackson…

How easy is it to get a tattoo? Are there tattoo parlors everywhere in India?

The tattoo parlors are not dense in India…and most of them believes in WOM and that works just fantastic… You know a sense of exclusivity remains… And then there are lot of amateur artists [mostly in the north-east of India and Goa] who do tattoos as a passion not a profession… The most known chain tattoo parlor is Funky Monkey [ as above] You also have Rock and Irezumi in Chennai… The problem is, in India we don’t have an “in house” celebrity tattoo artist [Even if one parlor has people like to get tattooed by somebody more ‘exotic’]… Hence its still not very creative or experimental…in desi sense… You can read what one girl wrote here…
Nice. Nice. Thank you. You can follow Kaystav on Twitter too for Ingene updates… @kaustavsengupta

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