Category Archives: tattoo

Beware your tattoos in India!!

Yellama tattoo....

Yellama tattoo….

My tattoo....

My tattoo….

Tattoos are for life and not just for a whim.  They should come with a warning, or deep pockets and a huge dose of pain tolerance in case of a change of heart!

I have no problem with my own tattoo and display it proudly in the Indian subcontinent, albeit often plastered in factor 50 to prevent it from fading in the all too bright sunlight. After making the decision of going ahead I thought long and hard about a design I could live with for my remaining days.  And I only found out afterwards about the tenuous link that exists in China between cherry blossom  tattoos and a celebration of sexual freedom…  And let’s face it, in Europe it  will be neatly hidden under socks, tights or inside other footwear to cope with the often cold and inclement weather.

Not so in India where flip flops and sandals give my feet breathing space in the great outdoors.  And indoors, in my own classroom, my bare feet on cool stone floors help to regulate my body temperature.  So at school, my tattoo has indeed been the subject of curiosity. Not just from the younger children, mind you, whose little fingers struggle to resist the temptation to touch and brush my foot to check if it’s real.  Older children ask questions, ‘Is it a transfer?’ whilst my fellow teachers shake their heads in disbelief that anyone would go to these kind of lengths for some skin decoration.  ‘What’s wrong with a henna pattern?  At least it is not permanent!’  They are clearly missing the point!!  My room mate and fellow English teacher for three months, A., confides that she thought my tattoo was the prettiest she had ever come across.  By the way, I feel rather good about my tattoo, and definitely no regrets.  Sticking to the flowery pattern was the right course!

But spare a thought for a twenty-something Australian tourist, Matthew Gordon , who on a visit to Bangalore, had the audacity to air the tattoo on his shin depicting the Hindu Goddess Yellamma.  It was hot; he is male, so shorts should not raise any eyebrows! The tattoo was neither offensive nor intended to offend; it merely mirrored his interest in Hinduism, an interest stemming from earlier visits to India.  As a matter of fact, the tattoo in question was inked on his shin IN India…  But last Saturday his display riled some local Hindu ‘fanatics’ (including a local politician)  in Bangalore, who threatened to skin his leg to remove the tattoo.  And if the Australian had hoped that the interference of the police would have been helpful, he found out otherwise.  Instead of the ‘aggrieved’ Hindu followers being reprimanded for their violent behaviour, the police officer in attendance expected the Australian tourist to write a letter of apology for his gross insult to the religion of Hinduism…    It was not so much the picture that was deemed inappropriate, but having it tattooed on his leg was ‘hurting their religious sentiments’.

Possibly not quite having anticipated the public and media interest in the story, the politician who had been the voice of the mob, mellowed a little later on.  In an interview with a national newspaper, The Hindu, he hinted that maybe it was not Matthew’s fault after all…  Maybe it was because Hindus, being not sufficiently outspoken, had failed to educate some Indian tattooists properly so they would understand the importance of positioning these pictures on the correct body parts (apparently not below the navel???) or somewhere out of sight.  After all, they had suggested that Matthew cover up the tattoo – as it clearly would not be a simple task to remove it – by wearing a pair of trousers as they feared for his safety at the time of an important Hindu festival, Durga  Puja, which would be taking place just a few days later.  They were very ‘understanding’ and only had his best interests at heart…

What was all the fuss about?? A New Age Crusade in India??  It certainly made for entertaining reading on the web and in the newspapers.

Taking a little bit of England on my travels OR my first tattoo…

Wild cherry blossoms in my garden

Pink blossoms in my garden

Wild cherry blossoms on my foot

Pink blossoms on my foot

I cannot honestly say that tattoos were ever on my to-do list, or wish list or bucket list… but somehow, about just over seven months ago in Cape Town, two tiny paw print tattoos displayed in a prominent position on the body of a most flamboyant woman, got me hooked.  And I thought, ‘Hell, why not??? Why not have a tattoo, just like the other half of the population.  Live a little dangerously!’  But a tattoo lasts for a life time, not just for the moment of madness that spurs you into action.  So my friend, sensible dentist from Cape Town, cautioned against making a rash decision.  ‘Best to give it some time before rushing into things; and if you still want one in a few months time, then, yes, maybe…’  And I put out some feelers in October, after my return from Africa, but India got in the way and time was in short supply.

So bitten by the bug and the appetite undiminished by the passing of some months, once back in England I found myself surfing the net to see what the local tattoo studios had to offer.  An apt design remained elusive although there was a long list of definite no-nos: no flowers – so not me; no showing off and discretion essential – tattoo not on display; and I don’t like pink…. And Please No Pain!!!! So you may ask how I ended up with pink blossoms on my foot, which according to the tattooist is one of the most painful places for a tattoo… but he kept that a secret until he had started to use my foot for his engraving joy and there was no point in leaving a tattoo half done….

I made extensive enquiries about the agony level to expect from ‘people in the know’: those who had subjected themselves, those who had friends and ‘friends of friends’ who had subjected themselves, and obviously the receptionist in the tattoo studio.  Responses were vague and words like ‘pain threshold’, ‘does not hurt at all’, ‘depends upon the place of the tattoo’ left me rather unsure about what was in store but ribs and foot came up, or anything near any bone for that matter, as areas best avoided.   But by then, the issue of positioning had already been settled, and although You Tube provides plenty of clues for those who care to watch, how representative are those clips anyway??



But where to hide this tattoo?  Son exclaimed in horror that he wanted to be spared any details about the whereabouts of this tattoo on my body; daughter had a more relaxed approach about the whole affair.  I can only wonder which part of my anatomy my son was imagining I would bare for my first body decoration.  I use the word ‘first’ loosely as, apparently, once you go down the road of body art, most people find it hard to resist adding to their collection, so who knows…  I was advised by said son to take into consideration that most tattoos don’t fare well when skin and flesh lose their youthful elasticity and succumb to the pull of gravity; so that ruled out most  body parts and left me with more bony structures to consider.  I had already decided that if I was going to go through with it, why would I cover up the evidence, rather than expose the beauty of the tattoo?  So my foot it was going to be…

This left me to select an idea..  which actually happened to be the easiest of all as the inspiration was found in my garden: a very pink blossomed possibly wild cherry tree.  Once a year, every year, in spring time the tree is covered in the most delicate deep pink buds that open into lighter pink blossoms, fading to almost white at their peak.  And it is the most magical and spectacular happening lasting only three weeks or so!  And one I will be missing for the next few years until I decide to return.  How better to take a little bit of England and Spring – the promise of better things to come – on my travels than by imprinting it on my foot.

Appointment made a few weeks ago, to ensure I would not miss out on the last arduous 10 miler to finish off the Cotswold Way, yesterday was the day!  I went in fully intending to have a frank discussion about the location of the tattoo and possibly moving it Northwards towards the calf…. The tattoo artist, having his heart set on sticking to the original destination, was unperturbed and suggested to have a go on the foot anyway and try the first few bits of the tattoo and see…   As if after the first few bits of ink have penetrated, you actually still have a choice…

On the upside, I was offered two lollies, which was some comfort.  But where was the brown paper bag when I needed to combat hyperventilating?  Or the sick bag when that morning’s breakfast had a sudden desire to reappear?  I had to make do with biting little plastic lollipop sticks, a generous dose of sugar and singing many versions of ‘lalalala’ when breathing space allowed.  And there were a few moments of respite in between the razor blade cutting and the ‘sandpaper scouring’-like inking, and only once in a  while did it feel as if a pneumatic drill was piercing my delicate skin and the zzzzinging vibrations reverberated along the length of the foot bone from the very end of my toes all the way to the ankle…  Only childbirth is worse because it goes on much longer…  But then, again, we all fall in love with the result so we easily forget the suffering,  otherwise there would be many only children and much less work in the tattoo studios.

And to think that I could easily have avoided the masochism and taken my bit of England and Spring with me by drying the blossoms between some heavy encyclopaedias and turning them into a laminated bookmark..  It did not cross my mind until I was halfway through the onslaught.  On the other hand, as those who know me well will agree: at least when it is permanently stuck on my foot, I am unlikely to lose it as I often do with my keys, my phone, my handbag….

The big question: Will there be a another one???  That is for me to know, and you to find out. Although I can assure you I will definitely be taking a wooden spoon along with me as the lollipop sticks just didn’t do it for me.

Stencil placed, still possible to change my mind...

Stencil placed, still possible to change my mind…

Outline on foot; almost the point of no return.

Outline on foot; almost the point of no return.

Black ink first for outline and stem..  Too late now!

Black ink first for outline and stem.. Too late now!

Pink for the buds and petals... some one hour later.

Pink for the buds and petals… some one hour later.

All done, and the lollipop stick all mangled!

All done, and the lollipop stick all mangled!

Wrap in some clingfilm to keep it all fresh and hey presto, two weeks from now my tattoo should be ready for presentation to the public.

Wrap in some clingfilm to keep it all fresh and hey presto, two weeks from now my tattoo should be ready for presentation to the public.