The concept of modern tattooing is still very new to India. No, don’t be mistaken. Traditionally, our history of tattooing goes to back to a few hundred years, but then somewhere down the line, we lost it. And post the death of traditional tattooing in India, it was not until recently that our society slightly opened up to the idea of a tattooed person. So, while you might not have many tattoos to talk about, have you wondered how life has been for the heavily tattooed Indian guy?
Meet Darryn Burrows, India’s first legit tattoo collector.
Darryn isn’t the screaming monster you might think tattooed people to be. He is a banker, an art enthusiast, and probably one of the quietest person you can come across. But his daily life is filled with prejudiced gazes. Recently, Tattoo Cultr met up with him to understand the psyche of a tattoo collector. Following is a small excerpt of what he had to share with us.
“My first memory of a tattoo was from 2001, when the 15 year old me went to visit Dr. Kohiyar. I was always into art, scribbling on books and stuff like that. For me, looking at something on someone’s body and knowing that it’s permanent fascinated me a lot.
To my dismay he said that he had stopped tattooing. So he pointed out to the next room, and said, ‘My apprentice tattoos now.’ So, that’s how I met my first tattoo artist, Sameer Patange. I went up to him and showed him a picture of a girl with a lollipop in her mouth, I don’t really know why I wanted to get that done. It was a rebellious thing, I guess, and it looked cool.The reason I chose that image was because it was that shocking and I wanted that shock factor. It was my way of saying, ‘Go fuck yourself!’
I mean, you’re looking at me in a different perspective and when I look at my tattoos, I look at them from a very different perspective. They’re personal to me, they might mean something even more deeper than what you think. Things that I can’t really say verbally but that’s how I want to express myself; this is me, this is who I am. Do they accept it? They don’t have any fucking choices, that’s how I am.
Recently, I got the words ‘Everything but Human’ inked across my ankle. It was my thought process as to how everyone’s thinking right now. People have become very mechanical in the way they think, you know, let’s follow the crowd, lets do this it must be right. I want to be anything but that.
There’ve been a lot of things that are in the mainstream right now like right now mandalas have become the in thing, there was a time when tribal was a big thing, you know different kinds of things were in the scene at that time.
Tattoo and Trends can never go hand in hand
There have always been tattoo trends, but I think it’s your body, you don’t follow a trend, you go according to whatever your mind tells you. My mind tells me to do these kinds of stuff. Why would I wanna get something that’s in trend right now? As long as you have an idea of what you want, that’s all you need, go to a tattoo artist and say, ‘This is my idea, and how well do you think this would translate into a design?’ and let him do the drawing and designing. People need to understand that a tattoo artist is not just that, they are your councilor, your doctor, and a lot of other things. People don’t get that!
I’ve had a lot of good experiences with a lot of people, though. I chose Duncan Viegas (from Goa) to tattoo my knee. I wanted to get the 8 ball, for it symbolized my fortune to me.
India and Tattoos is a strange relation
It’s the general psyche towards tattoos in India that needs a change. I can’t step out in the world without people following me, or touching my body. It is fucking weird! I was at the doctor’s clinic, and this guy comes up and asks me ‘Aapne paint lagwaya hai kya?’ and I am like, ‘Haanji, camlin ka paint kiya hai’ and he’s like, ‘haan okay okay.’ You might counter that saying that tattoos are fairly new to India, but it’s not, it’s just forgotten about.
I appreciate when people come and ask me their questions about my tattoos. Ask your questions, no matter how stupid your questions are, they’re still questions. You are not just staring at me like ‘Oh! My god, what is this person, what race is he, what freaking species is he?’ That’s discrimination.
I didn’t really face a lot of prejudice from my family, but to find out that your own family doesn’t really give this such a negative concept, whereas other people around you give it that kind of value, that really is weird for me. I mean my own family doesn’t have anything really bad to say about my tattoos, who the fuck are you!
Have you heard that story of Pinocchio? Pinocchio just wanted to be a real boy, I just wanted to be completed! It’s not like I am going to get filled and I am going to regret something…
The tattooed rebel?
Tattooing is an art form that is by nature rebellious. Pushing a needle into your flesh, to be very blunt with you. I mean I get tattooed, I think about things like I question myself you know. You think you know pain, I fucking know pain more than anyone else, you know that keeps me strong. I keep telling myself this is physical pain, it’s a little easier to handle than emotional pain. I wouldn’t really call it therapy, but it’s kinda like that. If you knew what was going on in my head, you’d probably stab me. But because of my tattoos, I guess I kinda know what’s in my head. In a more beautified form. Here is an outlet of what you want to say to everyone without having to say it, that’s what tattoos are about, for me.
I also wouldn’t really call it a habit, right, I would call it things that I already know I have on me, and I just don’t have them on me physically, as yet. I already know what I want for the most part and by getting completed, that’s just my journey. My journey at this stage is that of tattooing. When this is done, I’ll probably get into something else.”
Having spent so much time in the tattooing scene, Darryn now also writes for Tattoo Cultr.
If you too have interesting stories associated with your tattoos, write to us at email@example.com, and help us break the stigmas and stereotypes associated with tattoos in India.