Welcome to ‘Tattoos at Workplaces’: Chapter III
528 Hz, the frequency of love is the language that modern tattoos speak. While this form of body art has been connected to pain, picking fights and general badass culture, tattoos have moved far from then. Today, bodies have come further in the journey to prove as a canvas for strong ideas and beliefs. Further, India has an upper edge on these struggles. They are by default, more accepting of the use of this canvas due to the ancient roots of Indian face and body tattoos.
Though the people of India are accepting and most understanding of diversity, they still have their own apprehensions. India is a country filled with over a billion people. Tattoos mark a small percentage of this massive number, setting these people apart from the rest in the Great Indian Rat Race that is otherwise known as life. For many people, it often seems that the people that are a part of the larger percentage it is still easier to use this difference to shun people from the smaller percentage. However, this is not true, talent always proves to be greater than appearance. Further, if life is a little harder, India has only created a culture to use the fallbacks to create more opportunities to prove themselves. Tattoo culture in India has changed.
Case 3: Hyderabad
Hyderabad, named after the love of Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah, was one of the last provinces to join independent India. Going through political turmoil then has also led to the recent turmoil that led to the splitting of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and the creation of Hyderabad as a temporary joint capital. However, traditional influences still remain in the two primary forms of food and architecture. Other than the Islamic influence, which generally condemns tattoos, Hyderabad has moved far since. The city of pearls houses the hub of Telugu Cinema; Tollywood and has created many special economic zones to promote the growth of the industry. With this rapid expansion and large growth of local pop culture influences, Hyderabad’s tattoo love has grown as well.
We recently spoke to Sravya Kothalanka, an artist (Disclaimer: While to many people, this may seem that in this profession tattoos are acceptable and almost a given, this greatly depends upon the background of the person as well. Tattoos are still a representation of one of the passions that an artist may hold) and Divanshu Jain, a software developer to find out their life experiences and the workplace reaction to their “tattoocultr”.
Starting off with Sravya, she is not only an artist in terms of the visual arts, but is also a singer-songwriter. She’s a little bit crazy as we all should be, but she thrives off spreading good vibes. Coming to her tattoos, she had lots to say, starting off with her first one, “I got my first tattoo when I was 17, I lied to my friend (the tattoo artist) that I already turned 18 so he’d tattoo me (haha). I wanted to get tattoos always, but getting ‘Mumma-Pappa’ first was a good and sweet start.”
Going forward she hasn’t stopped, but she also believes that she has never and will never go on a tattoo spree. “All the tattoos I have had a lot of time from each other. Also sometimes, I forget I have tattoos until I’m getting gawked at. I was barely a teenager when I decided I wanted to be exactly how I am today. Tattooed, rock n roll, bit badass.”
The goal for her is to be a walking piece of art. “I give my skin to tattoo artists as a canvas. I have good and bad tattoos both, and I’m not even done with half the tattoos I aspire to have.” For her, it’s more about the art as compared to the sentiments she associates with it. In terms of her friends and family, her art-based motive seems to be inspiring the people around her. The beauty behind each piece justified her body’s purpose as a canvas and this even encouraged people around her to get their own pieces.
Coming to the work side of things, Sravya has had not much work experience in a traditional setup, however, this does not mean she does not have to work with lots of people on a daily basis. “People do expect me to be like I am, from knowing my work itself. They’ve accepted exactly like this. I never experienced bias because of my appearance.” While there have been some experiences that have been uncomfortable, due to some over-excitement related to the tattoos, she knows how to handle them and hold her ground. An Ekdum Hyderabadi at heart, she’s not scared of picking a fight, whether that is for getting her work across or protecting herself.
She has a mantra that keeps her going, ”If you don’t judge people, people won’t judge you. What you emit, you absorb.” The only thing that is stopping her right now is not technically being able to be cast as the lead for a Telugu movie, but the hope is that in the next few years, Telugu movies will be a mainstream representation of the tattoo subculture.
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Moving on to Divanshu, someone who is newer to the city, he seems to have some overlapping views on tattoos with Sravya. A graduate from IIIT Hyderabad, he is now an app developer. Beyond that, he is an easygoing, active person who loves exploring new art in terms of music and movies, which seems to reflect in his tattoos. “My first tattoo was in my third year of college, it’s a Greek quote by Socrates. I was studying Greek mythology for a course and to write a paper and as I was studying about different philosophers and their eras. It translates to Know Thyself.” He goes on to explain his philosophy that he carried with him even after his first tattoo, “Most of my tattoos mark a certain period in my life, at the time of my first tattoo I was going through a bunch of things and the story behind it resonated with me and the time I was in my life. I need an occasion to get something marked.”
One of his inspirations and support systems for tattoos was his elder brother, with whom he got his first tattoo. Coming to his work environment, he has a few ‘exposed’ pieces mostly on his left arm and he doesn’t feel the need to hide them. “There may be some people who are a little uncomfortable, but as people are becoming more and more comfortable, the taboo is melting away. I have taken into account the feelings of others, my tattoos can be hidden by a sleeve, but I don’t feel the need to roll my sleeves down as at my level and art my current job I feel nothing bad towards or coming from my tattoos.”
Tattoo culture has grown, but Divanshu has a slightly different take. “Tattoos are not spoken about as openly as I would like. I wish that I could openly strike up a conversation about someone’s tattoos, and I feel that this isn’t currently possible. You can openly talk about a haircut or a hair color, and I think that conversations about tattoos should happen on the same lines, people need to move away from ignoring tattoos.” Divanshu further believes that people can change and these sorts of situations are changing and can be changed very soon.
In terms of plans for the future, both Sravya and Divyanshu seem to have big plans for the future. They both aspire to see tattoo culture from around the world make their way to India. They also both believe in their ability to make mistakes and acknowledge that through their spirits and their tattoos.