Thursday, May 24, 2012

Superficially Me

Its been over a year now & no, it hasn't washed away, although I did once have a nightmare that it did. I thought discussing my tattoo would only mean narrating why I got it; instead I've got stories to share about what happens during and after as well.

Lesson #1: Needles hurt. Who knew?

Yeah it hurts, but its not really pain. Its this indescribable mix of scorching heat, vibration, pressure & a couple of IMs going in at once. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't apprehensive. Thoughts of choosing between whiskey, tequila, paracetamol & Tramadol kept going through my head. Eventually, I chose a girl to hold my hand.
I have the tattoo over my upper back, a good place as the skin here is thick and from what I've read, relatively insensitive to pain. Medicine never taught me the meaning of "relative".
And yes, its not funny when the stupid machine cords start tickling your lower back & the artist thinks you're tensing up because of the pain. I don't think he bought that story; not a proud moment for yours truly.
Would I do it again? Yes!! This damn thing brings out the masochist in you.

Lesson #2: Exhibitionism is out of the question

I've always thought people get the most amazing tattoos on their wrists, or the inside of their forearms, but its forbidden territory for doctors. I wouldn't personally get one anywhere that was easily visible. Its just that every physician is supposed to conform to the layman's idea of a competent doctor. You wouldn't ever want to be in a plane flown by a pilot wearing his hat backwards, would you? That being said, this tattoo was personal & I'm deeply attached to it. I don't think about whether its visible to the world. Its very cliched to say this, but I got it for ME! My shoulders, arms & feet though are reserved for future.
Also, I'd take this moment to thank my friends, who've never refrained from ripping apart t-shirt collars to get a better look.

Lesson #3: There'll always be 'people'

I was posted in I.Med last summer & still remember beads of sweat rolling down my nose when I did my post-emerg collections. I avoided my coat like the plague. So, I'm strolling ahead of my Unit Head during rounds & she goes, "Is that a tattoo?". I just nodded and slowled my pace to let her pass me. I thought she'd stop; except, (long pause) she didn't. She then did this great impression of a National Geographic journalist interviewing the tribes of the Amazon."How much does it hurt? How much did it cost you? Does your family know? Is it safe? Where did you get it? Why did you get it? I swear if my son one day walked upto me and told me he wanted to get a tattoo, he wouldn't have a home anymore. Personal reasons?! I don't really understand your generation." I looked at my registrar amid all this & we shared a simultaneous facepalm moment.
Other nicer instances include a Gynac nurse who almost hit me on the back because she thought the halo was a bug & then proceeded to get all the nurses to gang up on me to show it to them. Did you have a facepalm moment right now too? See, we're bonding.

Lesson #4: Those lingering moments of doubt eventually wither away

Of course, there were times after I'd taken the plunge when there were genuine doubts.
Did I make the right call?
Didn't he open the needles in front of me? Damn! Should've checked the seals myself
Maybe I could've gone with different artwork
Does this seem lopsided to you?
But, I love it & am at peace with it. I would've done a million things differently, if I'd had time. But, I suppose anyone would be that paranoid with something this permanent. Eventually, I'm going to go get some white retouches done on this to add more details at the flexion of the wing. But, I'd never change its structure, or what it says.

Lesson #5: Bis Vivit Qui Bene Vivit - One who lives well, lives twice

Those are the words I chose for my angel. This was my little slice of closure over losing someone close to me. And that's the lesson I hold dearest. I read the statement in two different ways.
One should live their lives to the fullest, take in all they can, because a life truly 'lived' is worth twice one spent in vain. 
A person who's been honest & good to those around him, deserves another chance. 
Getting inked wasn't ever about holding onto a memory or letting go. It was just honouring someone, knowing I have a keepsake with me, a sliver of where I'm from and what made me.


  1. "One who lives well, lives twice"
    What a wonderful thought! :-)

  2. Ain't it funny. The stereotypical impression of a person with tattoos is a 'punk-ass' who does it for kicks and who has little-to-no education or 'functional worth' in society. But I find, admittedly out of the very few people I know with tattoos, that they are some of the most awesome, deep, introspective and expressive people I have met. I guess deep down, that may be why some choose to mark themselves in permanent ink, because they have an idea that is as vital to their being as their own skin, that they want to express with themselves. (If that makes sense?) But the point of me writing that was not to hate on punks (hell, I don't KNOW any punks to hate...!! Protected life, much? :P) or goths or whatever. Or even to judge either way on why and how and where and what one does with their tattoos. It was more just a musing :)

    This post also reminded me why I don't have a tattoo yet. I am still waiting to realise what that idea was I've been living all along, I guess. The words you chose are simply perfect. I don't know you well enough to know if they're perfect for you but the thought has definitely struck a chord with me. One of my best friends (who is white) got a tattoo of the ever-golden Beatles' lyric - 'All you need is love'... wait for it... TRANSLITERATED INTO HINDI!!! The cool and wonderful stuff people do, eh... thanks for sharing your story, it's really interesting to know. :-)

  3. It's true what Sunrise says, all of the people I know, who have tattoos, all got them for a reason apart from the fact that they're such great body art. A reiteration of a personal philosophy, a need to hold on to a thought or an image, in memory of someone or something and so on. A friend has one on his forearm with the words "Veritas vos liberabit." - "The truth shall set you free." He got his in celebration of his law degree! And I still think that's pretty ironic. :D

    Also, I agree with mgeek up there. It is a truly wonderful thought. And it's a beautiful tattoo. I love that little bump where the wing bends.

  4. Why not get it in Hindi or English, ie in a language not foreign to you and others around?

  5. I think it is a nice idea to do a tattoo in a dead (i.e. Non-progressive, non-changing) language, a language which is not being used day to day at present. That way, the meaning is more appropriate and universal, and not at risk of mis-interpretation as the times change. For example, awful used to mean something nice in past, but now we use it as a derogatory adjective. Not long ago, a housewife "meant a small container for needles, thread, and other sewing equipment" but now hardly anybody knows that meaning. Languages that are in use are always liable to changes and modifications. Hence Latin and Greek are the way to go. Just my thoughts. You may disagree.

  6. @Sunrise: That's actually a great idea. But, my next one will almost certainly be the Rolling Stones' "You can't always get what you want, but you try sometimes, you may get what you need". The more I think about it, the more I know my tattoos will be centered around life events.
    What I really find interesting is that doctors prejudiced against tattoos aren't always those ignorant military types, some are actually quite intelligent about it & are able to articulate their grouse well. To each his own.
    And don't push the tattoo, it'll come to you. I'd been toying with the idea for years before I got it. Just make sure its something that you won't grow out of & will gel with future tattoos if you choose to get them. Check out Adam Levine's to understand what I'm talking about.

    @tangled: thanks & that's quite an ironic thing for a lawyer! Its like us getting one of House's quotes. Wait! That actually wouldn't be such a bad idea, would it? :P

    @mkk & mgeek: The reason I chose not to translate is that way a statement is interpreted changes with the language. And I liked the slight ambiguity with mine. Plus, a lot of people who're fluent in French have actually translated mine quite well due to the similarity.
    Certain things are best left untouched. For example, I love the that little bit of advice from Krishna in the Gita, but that entire speech loses its charm when its translated into English. The same goes for a lot of English and Sanskrit phrases.
    Next one's definitely in English!! :D

  7. That is a very nice lyric, aye. :) and lol sigh... you know you're too obsessed with Bollywood when you have no clue who Adam Levine is... I do love Maroon 5 (and Google) though. He has a lot of tattoos! And thanks, don't really intend to push the tattoo, the thought of having something permanent I'm not in love with is enough to scare the life out of me enough to not let me be peer pressured into these things :P