The Bhole Bums and Other Indian Inkheads


The Bhole Bums and Other Indian Inkheads

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

At first glance, Shubham Nag doesn’t come across as your average, garden-variety startup founder. His body is a canvas bedecked with tattoos of different shapes and sizes, a monument of his own making, adorned carefully and carelessly in equal measure. Where there once was a Hulk tattoo, now exists a geometric pattern that falls infinitely inwards like your consciousness cascading into oblivion on acid. Nag has a ponytail and an array of piercings; his face breaks light into fractals just like he breaks the last syllable of his sentence on his teeth as he clinches a thought into closure. He should be an artist sequestered by his own world-view. Instead, he is the co-founder of Tattoo Cultr, a web platform and magazine, which is bits and bytes of carefully curated visual ecstasy.

But in the hallowed land where women have been getting their husband’s names on their bodies and bartans for decades, it isn’t easy to create carefully curated visual ecstasy with people demanding tattoos that have the cringe quotient of a Dhinchak Pooja single. According to Nag, people will tattoo anything as long as a majority quorum of their Facebook feed says, “super lykzz” with a heart emoji. But we went beyond the cringe and discovered the five tattoo stereotypes that walk into tattoo parlours every day.

The Bhole Bums

They mean well. The Bhole Bums believe that if they’re putting something on their bodies in perpetuity, it should at least bring them good luck. And what is luckier than God himself/herself, nestled in your epidermis, blessing you daily? The depth of their devotion is found in the inches of their skin that they’re willing to devote to their prayer. Their demands range from a tepid Om to a portrait of Shiva, sitting on a hill, blazing one in the eternal 4/20 of Kailasa. Tattoo artists who’ve never died and gone to heaven don’t know how to make these elaborate fan-art tramp stamps and end up resorting to the desperate best of measures. So if your friend has a tattoo on his arm where the Shiva looks a tad like Hrithik Roshan from his Dhoom days, it isn’t just you. It was probably drawn that way.

The Bhole Bums believe that if they’re putting something on their bodies in perpetuity, it should at least bring them good luck.

Theo Walcott / Twitter

The Chakra-Public

The only kinds of people in the world that everyone is allowed to dislike at least a little bit, the Chakra Public are the people who walk into tattoo studios demanding a mandala after a night binge of Instagramming, chased by a morning of Pinteresting. These are your dreamers, your drummers, your DIY-doers. Mandalas are in and they’re apparently good for your chakra, which the human body, I’m told, has several of. So it’s a good idea if they’re kept in tippy-top shape. However, if you’re a subscriber of science and logic, these tattoos are not for you, mostly because you will never be able to keep a straight face through your chakra-reading. Forget sitting through an eight-hour tattoo sesh.

The My-Heart-Will-Go-Ons

When you’re listening to Norah Jones and blushing to yourself about how much in love you are, it’s time to walk into a tattoo parlour and prove it. Nag told me there’s an unwritten code of ethics between artists about this phenomenon, and most tattoo artists abide and try to talk people out of these mistakes. But when a muscular man walks in wearing sunglasses after sunset, slams his gun on the table and tells you that he wants his “bandi’s” name on his bicep, you don’t really refuse. Of course there are people who come back, post-breakup, to get their now former flame’s name covered up by something symbolic – like daggers and fire – but their ex’s name is burned on their body like an STD, whether they see it or not. But Nag doesn’t mind. Love keeps him and Hallmark in business all year around.


Stereotyped tattoos are a global phenomenon sponsored by BuzzFeed.

Courtesy: Maxim India

The Infinity Warriors

The Infinity Warriors are people who have bought into the hipster-millennial revolution like highly sensitive little dicks who saw Perks of Being a Wallflower stoned that one time and are now convinced that they’re infinite for some reason. We get it, you read. And you have feelings. You are a part of the universe, all snowflakes aren’t created equal, something pfaffy about stardust etc. But is this love for infinity and the cosmos so profound that you must add to your wrist and/or any other visible body part, quotes about infinity, being infinite, infinitely? I was hoping that Nag was exaggerating when he told me that an artist friend of his, Hendry Lama, once told him how at his studio in Delhi, seven artists were tattooing different versions of the infinity symbol on seven different people at the same time. The Infinity Warriors will also get Robert Frost tattoos about having miles to go before they sleep and tell you all about it after they get drunk and pass out on your couch.

After Nag and I finished this list, we decided that if we got started on Daddy’s Li’l Girls and other such Oedipal/Electra complexes, we’d never stop, so we called it a day with the conclusion that stereotyped tattoos are a global phenomenon sponsored by BuzzFeed and as long as the sun will shine and millennials will want to “express themselves”, stereotypes will flourish and businesses will boom. May the tribe of Bhole Bums and Infinity Warriors thrive.