By Manasi Nene
Tattoos aren’t always about drunken mistakes or the names of long-forgotten exes; they’re also an expression of identity and sometimes, it’s just about really enjoying a work of art. For Laxmi, director of the Chhanv Foundation, it’s about one simple concept – freedom.
It was at Chhanv’s collaboration with tattoo artist Vikas Malani for a workshop, that Laxmi got a piece symbolising freedom. The workshop was aimed at the women (supported by Chhanv) to help them be financially independent. The workshop familiarised the participants with the tools and equipment involved in tattooing.
Twenty-two-year-old Rity, a participant, managed to find her calling through the workshop – in fact, she’s hoping for a scholarship and apprenticeship at Body Canvas Tattoos – while Soniya, a make-up artist, is interested in using tattooing techniques in her own field. Chhanv has been involved in other efforts to create opportunities for women to become more independent and one of these is the Sheroes Cafe, run together with the Stop Acid Attacks NGO.
Sheroes, built in 2015, is primarily run by four survivors – Farah, Reshma, Rani and Sunita. Without formal training, they had to learn quickly on the job, as well as through the few small workshops that the foundation organised for them. Sheroes is booming – its pay-what-you-want model is turning out to be surprisingly profitable.
Alok Dixit, Laxmi’s partner, founded Stop Acid Attacks in 2013. With Sheroes Cafes in Agra, Lucknow and Udaipur, Laxmi and Alok are familiar with the journey of rehabilitation after an attack.
The tattoo workshop is “in line with” what Laxmi strives for, and getting a tattoo is her attempt to show society that she can be free. For Vikas Malani, the tattoo artist who has also worked with victims of domestic abuse, these workshops aren’t a way to get better publicity – just a way to give back to society.