When it comes to tattoo artists in the city, Jitendra Bhardwaj aka Jitu is undoubtedly the most popular name which comes across. Apart from his skills with the ink, Jitu is also known for his soft spoken and sorted demeanor; his clients will agree. The tattoo artist who has been in the business for more than a decade now, himself sports 7-8 tattoos on his body and is probably the only tattoo artist in Nagpur who has a doctorate degree!
In an interview with Nation Next, Jitendra Bhardwaj talks about his journey as a tattoo artist, his tattoo studio – Exotic Ink Tattoos, precautions necessary while getting inked and tells us why is it important to think twice before getting inked!
Tattoo making was a very rare profession to be in when you entered it in 2003. How did you enter the profession?
While I was studying in KDK College, I got influenced by a friend from Australia who got a temporary tattoo done. I got a temporary tattoo myself and I realised that people took notice of me because of it. My fascination towards tattoos grew with time and I started researching about them. When I started my career as a tattoo artist thirteen years back, there were very few well-known tattoo artists in India and they did not teach the art to anybody easily. After a lot of persuasion one of the tattoo artists agreed to help me. I got trained, came back to Nagpur and made my first tattoo for a model on his back.
When you commenced your business, there weren’t any tattoo parlours in the city and hence the awareness about tattoos was very limited as well. How hard was it for you to set up the business?
Initially, I didn’t start it as a business. I got into it because tattoos fascinated me. I operated from random places for two years and then in 2005, I rented a commercial place in Dharampeth opposite Batukbhai Jewellers. I got good clients in Nagpur but I felt like Nagpur restricted my growth because there were very few clients. So, I started traveling to cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Surat, Vishakhapatnam, Mumbai and Bhopal. I got work through references. I also had a tattoo studio in Goa for a year and half till 2007. In Goa, there was a lot of work but there was no recognition. After I came back, I started a studio in Ajni at a space of 750 sq.ft. Unfortunately, it didn’t flourish because in 2007 as well, there wasn’t so big a market for tattoos on basis of which I could support my livelihood. Then I shifted my parlour to Khamla square where it is today and I have been here ever since.
Since when do you think, things have been better for your profession in Nagpur?
Over the last five years, the craze for tattoos has grown a lot. Indian films and western sitcoms like LA-ink and Miami-ink have created a lot of awareness about tattoos. There are a lot of youngsters who want to be tattoo artists now because of the awareness. The demand in Nagpur for tattoos is high and it will grow more with time. I have been in the profession for more than a decade now, so I can say that in comparison with the past there’s a lot of work now. Now, I don’t travel much for making tattoos. I only travel for people who have been my clients for long and people who specifically call me after watching my profile.
There’s not a lot of awareness among people about the importance of getting tattoos in a healthy way. Also, some people rush into getting a tattoo…
There’s no awareness at all! Plus, there’s a dearth of knowledge in our industry as well. For instance, a lot of Indians may have demand for coloured tattoos. Now, colour tattoos are not very visible on Indian skin as we are not that fair. Secondly, colour tattoos contain lead and some people may be allergic to lead. Thirdly, colour tattoos cannot be easily removed by laser treatment as compared to a black ink tattoo. Tattoo artists should be free of Hepatitis B and HIV and they should be undergoing regular tests for these. Also, clients should take time to decide whether they really want to get inked or not. Because if you get a tattoo you really didn’t want, you’ll regret it later. Earlier getting a tattoo done was a big thing, five years down the line ‘How good is the tattoo’ will matter the most!
You are known for denying to make a tattoo if you don’t feel it appropriate. Also, you try to talk people out if they plan to get tattooed with names of people they love…
People who want to get names tattooed are very excited at first. They have already taken a decision and will not listen to you even if you try to put things in perspective for them. They feel very good when they get the tattoo done but things may change with time, so getting a person’s name engraved is really not a good idea. Also, there’s a myth that if you get tattooed with a person’s name, the chances of separation increase. So I make sure, whenever I make a tattoo of a person’s name, I make it in a way and at a place (Underarms, chest, back) where it can be hidden or covered up if there’s any problem in the future.
You have a doctorate degree as well…
I obtained a doctorate degree in 2013 and the subject of my thesis was spiritual symbols. Spiritual symbols are not associated with any religion. These are symbols which are being used from ancient times. Every symbol means something. In my opinion, whenever you’re making a tattoo, you should keep in mind the positive and negative aspects of it.
You’re quite an adventurer as well. You love exploring jungles and going on long bike trips…
I feel like I’m meditating when I’m on adventures. It’s frustrating to work continuously for a month or two. Adventures are a breather of sorts for me. They charge me up again for work. Whenever I visit jungles, I do photography and feel close to the nature. Cultures change at every 100 kms in India and I love exploring these cultures. I have been to Ladakh from Kanyakumari on a bike alone. I have also had a lot of bike trips with my friends and my wife.
Would you say you’re content with the kind of name you have made for yourself in Nagpur?
I have had mental and financial growth because of my profession. My family always supported me and I’m thankful for that. A lot of people are in the profession now. There are professionals who have been my students and charge more than me. Tattoo making has never been a business to me, it’s has been a passion. The rates which I use to charge back when I started, I ‘m charging almost the same rates even today. My clients have increased, so I’m satisfied as I earn more now. I have clients not only in India but in Dubai, US, and other countries who are in regular touch and come to me when they want to get a tattoo done. If somebody comes back to you again, that’s success for you!