Walk along Dadar bridge any day and you’ll spot a couple of sari-clad women sitting with an array of photographs, displaying the various designs you could get inked on your body while waiting for the next Virar fast train. Suman Maushi, as she is popularly known, is one such tattoo artist, hailing from Diva. With over ten years of experience, she says she doesn’t require stencils to do the designs. “I’m very adept with my work. Pick any design and I’ll perfect it wherever you want in ten minutes,” says Sarita Waghmare, another tattoo artist.
With over a hundred designs, Maushi’s prices range from Rs 20 to Rs 450. She uses a new needle for every design and tries to maintain as much hygiene as she can on a railway bridge. “I have never encountered any of my customers who had a rash or skin diseases,” she says. The artists themselves make the machine. Each piece costs above Rs 1,000 to make and uses five ‘C’ batteries to operate. According to Maushi, one machine usually lasts for half-a-year.
“After that, one can utilise it but it can fall apart. I don’t want hot battery fluid on my customers’ hands,” she says. These artists are only present on Dadar bridge. They provide a cheap solution to the usually expensive tattoo parlours, according to Waghmare, who has been running shop for over four years. “Every common man you see on these locals with a tattoo has gotten it done at this very bridge,” says Waghmare.
She adds: “They can’t afford the luxurious studios. And why should they? The outcome is the same.” On a good day, the artists will have over a dozen customers. Business is highest during February, especially around Valentine’s Day. “Most of them get their girlfriends here and tattoo their names on the arms. Then, they come again the following year, with a different girl!” said Waghmare. Both mothers, the husbands of these women are autorickshaw drivers. The most common designs are of religious figures, they say.
However, over the past few years, tattoos dedicated to parents are gaining traction as well. “Most prefer to get it done in Hindi or Marathi but a few of them like to mingle the designs in English,” says Waghmare.