Welcome to ‘Tattoos at Workplaces’: Chapter II
The more I seem to look around, tattoos seem to surround me. From people that I treat like my dadi to people who are still in school, these pieces of art are inescapable. India, a country that has become progressively less okay in the past with tattoos and is presently becoming more progressively okay with the same has a love-hate relationship with tattoos and other forms of body art and expression.
This self-expressive outlet has now become a medium that is being used more often by people working in ‘normal’ professions. Unfortunately, just as women working and earning equal wage is a concept we hope that most people can grasp this far into the 21st century, there are still some people who seem to be unable to grasp that tattoos are just another form of art. On the flip side, today, in this global economy, it has become more important than ever to be accepting of people. While this rule usually pertains to people of different backgrounds, we believe that it is being extended towards just different kinds of people as well. It is no longer just social class and geography that is being looked into, but also gender, sexuality, and self-expression. While India currently seems to be slow to hop onto this wagon, moves are still being made, and tattoos are definitely becoming more acceptable.
Case 2: Delhi
For part two of this series, we have moved to Delhi. Delhi is not only the capital city of the country, but it houses the heart of the nation. Home to the empire to last rule before British India, Delhi is a heritage hub. The NCR region (New Delhi, Noida, and Gurugram) is the perfect mix of what the Mughals left behind, what the Britishers created and modern influences throughout the years. This rich cultural mix had made the city home to an expanse of some outstanding art, and by that virtue, some noteworthy tattoos as well.
Delhi is home to people from all over India and its neighboring countries. Each person here is hoping to make it big. Therefore, it is a mixing pot of cultures from all over, but it undoubtedly has a very strong vibe of its own. To capture how this vibe is a part of their work lives we spoke to Shaashwat, a tech developer and Rohini, an academician respectively about their experience of ‘living with tattoos’.
Starting off with Shaashwat, an avid Tattoo Cultr follower, he is a software developer with Accenture and goes to work each day with a full sleeve. He had always aspired to be a graphic designer and his creative side shows off through his body art. “I got my first tattoo in New York, I had done some of my schooling there, and that’s where I was first introduced to tattoos, as they are quite prevalent there. Eventually, I went back when I was 16 and got my first tattoo which was a Superman ‘S’ on flames, and I associated this with the names of most people in my family.” For him, the journey of getting more tattoos has never slowed down, though he initially got one, telling his mom that would be it. Now, he says “I keep craving more, the first one is a stepping stone to more and more.” However, looking back he wishes he had saved up more because good art is expensive.
On the work side of things, he says, “While there are some stereotypical types (of people), who initially question me on first sight, I’m good at my work and no one can question that. Though India is progressing forward with respect to these ideas, if you are used to dealing with the people who judge you, nothing can stop you. Tattoos give me my own character and personality and that’s more important than anything else.” He also believes in the fact that the country is changing with time for the better, it is not only the presence of an MNC’s at every corner of a big city, but this external influence has also seemingly helped change the mindset of the people. “You’re not a different person if you have ink on your body, that’s not how people think anymore.”
While there have been some stares and awkward comments at the workplace, it’s always been worse for him in public areas. Environments and common interests seem to make a difference with acceptance, but either way, these don’t hinder his work prospects whatsoever. Learning to make your personality stand out is a trait that each person should have, whether they have tattoos or not. Most awkward stares towards Shaashwat’s tattoos seem to come from a space of intrigue, and this was voiced by Rohini as well. Rohini doesn’t have as many tattoos but does interact with lots of people on a daily basis as a professor in a law school in Delhi. An extremely busy person, master of words and stories, those have formed as the basis of her tattoos.
“I got my first tattoo about four years ago, and though I always wanted one, I wasn’t really clear of what I would like on me except for the fact that I wanted it to be the symbol of a storyteller”, she said. She wanted to include teaching as a storytelling activity and eventually began working with the artist to design it and make it a reality. “I feel like it is a bit addictive, and as it is art and that it is very interesting art. It is also an art that changes with time and what you make of it on your body at that point in time.” She wants lots more small tattoos and believes that there is not stopping. She believes that the artist and the person should get together to design the piece such that it looks like it was made to be there, not added on later.
“At work, there was surprisingly no reaction to the tattoos, while I do work in academia, which is a fairly liberal space, people were intrigued, but I have never faced resistance at work”. The field of academics in India has become the most open space for free thinking and it shows with lots of Rohini’s colleagues sprouting fun tattoos as well. She has never really been plagued by silent stares, conversations move around the curiosity of what it means and the color of it all, but nothing negative. “Before I got the tattoo, I was all kinds of terrified as to reactions, but 12 hours after I got it I was back in my skin and I thought maybe I should have done it earlier.”
“Once in a while I wonder if tattoos could hold people back, but I always see academicians with their tattoos just doing their own thing. I am in a discipline that has the potential to be both very rigid and very forgiving, but I have never seen a tattoo be the basis to hold someone back.” She knows that she has made the choice to be in a space that will not restrict her by what’s on the outside and that has been respected as far as she can tell.
Tattoos need to be taken seriously for the art they are. They are both an investment in terms of time and money, which is what makes each piece different and special as compared to the last. Both these stories show that letting your tattoos help define your personality to other people is an asset. They are unique to you and what they mean is defined by your actions. Your boss may look at you twice the first time, or not acknowledge your tattoos at all, but it all comes down to what you make of it. As Shaashwat rightfully said, “my tattoos give me the ability to be sure of my decisions, knowing that I won’t regret these when I’m older is empowering.”