While some of us might be too commitment-phobic to get into something as permanent as a tattoo, for some, they go beyond being just skin-deep. These permanent fixtures can either convey a meaningful moment or totally random requests, possibly fuelled by a booze-induced bender, and possibly questionable looking and questionably placed. But the bottomline is, tattoos are an important outlet of self-expression. Even the Indian army finally surrendered to allowing applicants with visible tattoos, and they also remain an irreplaceable aspect of many indigenous tribes in northeast India and even the Philippines. But while everyone is entitled to their own ideas, some requests are just plain weird. So, we asked tattoo artists across India about the funniest or most unusual request they've ever got, and here’s what they had to say:
Vikas Malani, founder of Body Canvas Tattoos
"A girl once came up to me and asked for the word ‘slut’ to be tattooed on the inside of her lips. I first thought she was kidding and found it weird, but then she told me how she was tired of being slut-shamed, and this was her way of proving that being what others consider a ‘slut’ is not a bad thing. When I posted the tattoo on my social media, people asked if she was crazy. But this made me realise that people often judge without knowing the real story behind something. Tattoos can be reassuring and have a placebo effect on people, which is why people who have dealt with a loss or gone through depression get semicolons. So it’s always important to understand the meaning before reacting to it."
Akash Chandani, founder of Skin Machine Studio
"A pundit (a Hindu priest) once came in and asked us to do a permanent tikka (a mark on the forehead kept by Hindus with sandal paste or turmeric usually during rituals). It was quite strange, especially because you normally don't expect to see a pundit come into a tattoo parlour. But he was incredibly happy after getting this tattoo."
Nikhil Bhanushali, founder of Ace Tattoos
"I get a lot of weird requests. A guy once wanted to get a tattoo to cover his girlfriend’s name so his wife wouldn’t find out. But the most unusual one I’ve done is for this Chinese girl who was working in Mumbai. She wanted to get something to represent her love for our country. So we did a weed symbol to represent Manali and even got a Sardar character to symbolise the man who had saved her from being molested in Delhi. When Indians feel patriotic, they only get the map outline inked, but her idea was more interesting. It was also different from other foreigners who are very fond of getting Hindi words. Once, a Swedish guy wanted to get aatma (soul) inked near his crotch so girls who sleep with him would think he’s deep."
Chetan Salhotra, founder of Ink Space Studio
"I always find it weird when people want to get their own name tattooed. Tattoos are meant to represent memories or relationships and are a way to express yourself. If you’re so into getting your name, why don’t you get your phone number and address as well?"
Archana Nakhua Bhanushalli, tattoo artist at Ace Tattoos
"One woman came to me asking to get a tattoo of the name of her mother-in-law in Japanese. I warned her against it, especially because she wasn’t even married, and asked her several times if she was sure about her decision. She went ahead with it anyway but after six months or so, she gave me a call and asked me to cover up the tattoo.
We’ve seen a lot of couples who get each other’s names. But some of them break up and then, the tattoo is not just a bad memory but also painful to cover up. In fact, I’ve noticed that couples who get each other’s names tattooed usually don’t last. It’s like they want to prove something that isn’t there. You can get your parents’ or child’s name as that will not change, but here you’re choosing your significant other without having any guarantee of the relationship lasting."
Bruna, tattoo artist at Inkspace Studio
"As a transgender tattoo artist, the most unusual tattoo I made was for my gay friend. He wanted to get this as he had always seen his softness as a weakness. It was a constant reminder of his vulnerability, until one day he had a breakdown which gave him the clarity that to be soft in this world is an act of rebellion. To be soft is not a sign of weakness, but rather strength. He said he felt empty until he realised that it’s better to be soft in this world which every day pushes him to be a harsh person. Through this tattoo, he wanted to represent his refusal to be the hard version the world wanted him to."
Follow Shamani Joshi on Instagram.