There comes a time when you do think of getting a tattoo. Sometimes that time is at 18, sometimes at 36. My time came when I was 28, but I acted on it a good decade later. What was the reason? Boredom, angst, change? Probably a combination of all three. Historically every one of my visits to Goa would have one “Lets get a tattoo” day, which never culminated in it. And for good reason; sun, water, alcohol are all not very conducive to getting a tattoo so here’s my advice, don’t do it in Goa regardless of how cool it would sound when you narrate it to your friends. You might end up with one like this…
I chose a studio in Bangalore after considerable research. It’s a place called Skin Deep in Indira Nagar. Modern, comfortable and with a bunch of talented youngsters.
I did think quite deeply of what I wanted. No design involving the devil or anything satanic, nothing as spiritual as one of the gods, no women names for obvious reasons…just a quote from Hamlet which I felt best represented my life situation. I mulled over this for a couple of days and then spent a day thinking where, disregarding the back, arms, legs and my buttocks for various reasons, both personal, pain related & obvious! Eventually I decided on my right rib cage, research pointed to a decent amount of pain but not unbearable.
When I reached the studio I went in and gave them the script which one of the guys showed me how it would look in various fonts on the system. I liked one style, it was printed on thermal paper and then stuck on my rib and I was whisked into the “theatre”. All in all this took not more than five to eight minutes, which meant I did not have time to think or change my mind, which in hindsight was a good thing, I don’t think I would have gone through with it if I had much time to think about it.
In we go, shirt off, alone in a strange room surrounded by prints, tattoo ink, couple of people getting inked, chest, arms, back and a secondary private room where an attractive girl was being inked close to her unmentionables..hence a half ajar door! It never struck me to ask why the door was not shut completely?
My tattoo artist was this young guy from art school who had moved to Bangalore from Pune. Talked to me quite a bit about the process, nonchalantly pulled out fresh needles and got to work. Now the rib cage as per multiple web sites was an area of moderate pain. Moderate pain is now defined for me as a combination of giving birth, being knifed in the gut and hearing Pantera being played repeatedly in the back ground.
The first half hour wasn’t bad, he skirted the ribs and stuck to the periphery. Once he hit the ribs it was pure agony. Not for one hour, not for two hours but for three solid hours. To be fair to him he tried to distract me with conversation, we went through varied topics like alcohol, career, his family, girls, drugs, his future, music…that lasted about half hour. Very tough to speak through clenched teeth and perspiring lips.We took one break. I wanted to use the loo. I actually wanted to take a detour, one that wouldn’t bring me back ever, but better sense prevailed. A Shakespearean quote is always hard to decipher, half a quote is just silly.’This is Sparta’ sent goose bumps down spines, ‘This is Spa’ is the entrance to a Thai massage parlour, not quite inspiring.
By the third hour, the pain was at a constant level, the area had numbed and I was relatively ‘comfortable’. I also took solace in seeing the burly men next door crying in pain, what sissies…though to be fair there tattoo’s were infinitely bigger and more complex. Still. I was given multiple doses of chewing gum, it distracts you. The music was also quite good, rock down the ages. The studio also had a bunch of interesting memorabilia, an old style TV converted to a fish tank, skulls with ink, witty sayings, all in all a good place to feel the most pain ever felt by man.
The last hour was possibly the worst. He did something which he called ‘whitening’ which basically ensured that the ink did not spread and become patchy. My limited understanding of whitening was basically taking hot coal and running it across your fresh raw tattoo for an hour, apparently this is not the scientific definition. The scientific definition is something I still don’t know. I prefer my definition, it is a more accurate representation both scientifically and for the layman. I tried stopping at this time. However convincing a tattoo artist mid way is tougher than getting cows to move in rush hour traffic by honking. “I’m an artist”, “I would not be comfortable”, “You think Da Vinci would have stopped half way through the Mona Lisa because her neck was hurting” were muttered in different tones, this I para phased as “Shut up and sit down you sissy ass man and finish it!”
And then it was done. My tattoo was over and I had managed to not cry, weep or do anything remotely unmanly. Sweating profusely and getting the shakes doesn’t count. The relief washed over me, it literally washed over me since I was sweating so much! Post that the mandatory photo’s, the wrapping of the tattoo in cling film, getting a small brochure on after care, a bottle of neosporin powder, the even more mandatory fist bumps followed by the even more mandatory payment…cash only.
So there it was, my first tattoo. It pains like hell, but its meant too. The rib is apparently extremely painful for a first timer. The web sites that mentioned moderate pain were referring to people who had tattoo’s before and probably looked like this.. not someone like me who looked like this in tattoo years. Post care management was easy, within a couple of hours the redness vanished and within a fortnight it had scabbed over and healed completely. It’s important to remember the following things, shave the area you wish to tattoo or if you’re hairless like me no need, don’t think too much or you might not do it, don’t drink the night before or your blood thins and can ruin the design, man up and complete it, don’t cry and finally..Just Do It!