Neelu Bhandari is the perfect example of an independent stay-at-home mom. Correction – independent tattooed working-from-home woman. And this is her #MyTattooStory.
Neelu has three tattoos to talk about, two of them are over 16 years old, and tiny ones, but with her third one, Neelu has gone big and bold. Our favourite badass mom just got entire arm sleeve done by the talented Tshering Sherpa of Calcutta Ink Tattoo Studio, and we simply can’t take our eyes off it.
You follow her on social media, and she is probably the coolest mom you will come across, who gets drenched in the rain with her kiddos, has her playtime with the dawg, and is so much fun. But what underlines all of it is the strength of a woman, who is independent from her heart.
Recently, I met her when she was on the verge of finishing her tattoo, and got to know more about her #MyTattooStory…
“I’ve been a stay at home mom for the longest time now. I have two boys – a 12 year old and a 10 year old, and I’ve two other tattoos. After having my kids, I had told myself that when I get back to work, I’ll get the third one. I have paid for each of my tattoos with my first job or whatever, and I wanted to be able to pay for my third one as well. So, I’ve done a series of work from home but it never really worked out and then I said, you know what I’m not going to wait for the precondition anymore, and with immediate effect within a month, I started working from home.”
But, how did you land up at Calcutta Ink?
“My first two tattoos were done in Bombay at Dr Kohiyar’s, by him and then his apprentice, Sameer Patange, and I didn’t know anybody in Calcutta and years back I won’t even trust anybody over here to tattoo me. Then a friend of mine, who got a tattoo done by these guys told me about them five years ago.”
Five years later, “this year I just told myself, this year I’m turning 40 and I don’t want to wait anymore. This is my gift to myself. So this is my 40th birthday gift to myself, this sleeve. This has, the entire sleeve has been for me.”
So, is it your journey so far? Or what does this sleeve represent?
“It represents a lot that I’ve been through, a lot, I feel right now. This is not midlife talking, I’ve turned 40 and life just has been so much and now there’s time for so much more so I have for example, been feeling and I’m beginning on the world again. Whatever is done, is done, is in the past. No more. Fresh start. And dragons, I just love dragons – I’m actually a dragon by the Chinese calendar. So, I’ve always had them around some or the other way. So, there’s no way that I won’t have a dragon on my arm.”
And you’re getting an Oriental flow to your entire piece of work…
“Yeah, and I’ve got my babies and my husband. Things will change, might change but they are always gonna be around.”
And what does the mandala signify?
“It’s a lotus which again I think everybody goes through it. We go through a phase; where or whatever. You are some way and people are not accepting the way you are which is upfront and in your face, people don’t like that sort of things so you get trashed about all the time. But that’s the thing about the lotus, isn’t it? Look at where it blooms. So, that is me.”
Did you have like a set style before starting with the sleeve or did you just go with the flow?
“No, I’ve had numerous conversations with him saying this is how it needs to go and the entire flow is his. The moment he started the first half of the design I was hooked and he was missing and I couldn’t start immediately I said no, he’s gonna have to do it and as we kept going. He asked what you want… I said I want this, I want that and he placed everything everywhere.”
You wanted to go colour?
“Absolutely! What’s life without colour? And, I wear a lot of black clothes so I have to have colour everywhere.”
You’ve also got a dream catcher…
“Here’s a thing about dream catchers, like what you’re trying to do with your website, dream catchers are hanging above you and people don’t really know how they work. They actually work for you on a daily basis. It’s actually a mandala, a dream catcher is actually a mandala. So you charge it for yourself or whatever and keep it around you and works for you on a daily basis. It’s not just at night.”
And how has your family reacted to the tattoo?
“Oh, they have absolutely loved it. My mom actually made me show it to her friends. She said look at her, look at the patience, I don’t know what she gets out of it but just look at it!”
Now, how do people around you react to your tattoos?
“Well, I actually work from home, I work online, so the office culture so to speak does not curtail my sense of being anywhere and well, my first tattoo itself is 18 years old now. So, I am impervious to somebody wondering ‘Woah! What?’ And I think today, at least the people I’ve come across it’s not about why have you gotten a tattoo. It’s about what did you do, where did you get it done? The questions have changed.”
So, 16 years back, 18 years back, what were the questions like?
“Now that you’re asking me and I’m looking for, yes of course, your friends would go like wow! You’ve gotten a tattoo done! So it was like a ‘you’ve gotten done something again which we haven’t done,’ which was never the intent with which it happened. I’ve had the nose ring for 25 years now. I think I was in school when people started getting second and third ear piercing, but I’ve four and three. It just happened and I think after a point of time, for my friends and people around me it became sort of like, ‘she’s going to do something anyway so let’s just see what comes next. Weirdly enough, not too many questions even then.”