India tattoo

By Western standards it’s poor and slum-like, made of bits and pieces of whatever he could find. But even if that’s your judgment, it’s not your impression. It feels like the home of a proud and dignified man. The place is clean, well looked after, and decorated with plaques of Hindu deities and colorful icons of all sizes and shapes.

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Tattoo artists india

You remove your shoes and walk inside. The light changes and you feel a sudden sense of calm. The crowd is still outside, waiting patiently for some drama to unfold. From inside you can see them, pressing against each other and the fence, struggling to peer in the window, to spectate. Vishwas the tattoo-wallah ignores all this, and you look around for the first time at his home/studio.

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Tattoo indian

Traffic grinds to a halt, attracted by the mob on the sidewalk. A thousand eyes are on you—you are the circus come to town, a traveling sideshow, an unwitting performer in the carnival of the city. Cheap thrills for the cheap seats. Crowds beget even more crowds, and just when it gets so thick you wish you were anywhere else on earth, even a nice solitary prison cell, a self-assured, gentle young man emerges from the press of flesh, takes you by the tattooed arm and leads you inside.

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Tattoo symbols

You ask someone in halting Hindi about trajwa, one of the many local dialect words for tattooing— which draws a blank stare. Then you roll up your sleeves and show your tattoos, looking for some response. And you get one. Giggles, wild gesturing and pointing—the crowd really goes nuts, with everybody waving and arguing, pushing, pulling, shoving, craning for a better look at the crazy foreign tattoo person.

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Indian tattoos

If you blinked you’d have missed it, but you stop and look again. Sure as hell, the sign on one shanty says clearly: “VISHWAS TA TTOO ART—Army and Navy Specialist. ” Before too long, a crowd indian tattoo designsgathers to gawk because you—a foreigner—have stopped to look at something. It doesn’t matter what.

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Indian tattoo designs

You turn a comer off a decrepit crowded side road and onto one of the broader avenues and walk along, stunned. It’s just as crowded and busy and noisy as the side road, but the intensity knob has been turned up another couple tics. Back from the sidewalk, behind a fence, are rows and rows of low shanty houses, which look like they were constructed as temporary dwellings—shelter from the human storm blowing past the other side of the fence—and just somehow…

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Tattoo tribal

Our destination, when we finally reached it, was on a calm, shaded street where we found the ñame Dr. Jangoo Kohiyar engraved on a panel in front of an oíd colonial building—a structure built during a time when human labor was used to créate a certain level of perfection rather that just a profit.

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Old school tattoo

As darkness carne on, we bid Vishwas farewell. There was another stirring in the córner of the room—maybe two rats having a rat rumble. We emerged into the muggy Bombay twilight. The crowd had finally dispersed, so I asked Patel to take a picture of us in front of Vishwas’ tattoo sign from the sidewalk outside the fence.

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Tattoo tribal

Vishwas knew, like all good tattooists know, that it’s not the machine—it’s the hand, the eye, and the spirit of the artist that makes a good tattoo. Vishwas was an undisputed master tattoo-wallah of the back streets of Bombay.

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Indian symbols

Like many other tribal people forced to abandon their homelands in favor of the marginal economic possibilities in the big urban centers, our tattooist has traded a life of possi-ble rural starvation for one of decay in the slum. Her tattoos are crudely scrawled, quickly made marks applied with little care or enthusiasm. But she obviously serves a large need, judging by her busy trade in the afternoon.

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