It Was All New

I have a tattoo on my lower back. It was given to me by the grandson of a tribal village chief. I grimaced for hours on the floor as he used the primitive tools and ingredients that had tattooed his Iban people for centuries, on me, a girl from a big city.

I’d always wanted a tattoo, but didn’t know what; this one crept up on me. Like the girl I was there with (we had a crazy idea: we would visit and live with an Iban community in a longhouse and celebrate Hari Gawai with them), I wasn’t expecting any of this. The girl, the tattoo, or that I would have such a story to tell many years after the fact. I chose a bunch of tribal motifs from an album and told him to make it up. I got lucky: I like my tattoo very much, even if it is what some people would call a tramp stamp. I’m proud of it. There’s a story to tell each time anyone asks about it.

The girl is no more in my life but the tattoo remains, defiantly representing all of the new beginnings I will embrace in life. Tomorrow, I start a new life and more and more I feel as though the year of grieving and floating, which so profoundly altered my path and direction in life as well as my livelihood and future plans, is finally about to draw to a conclusive close.

I am finally ready for another tattoo. This time, I know exactly where it should be, what it should say and what it should look like. I would not have known this without the pain of my first tattoo. It will be a beautiful Sanskrit verse from the Bhagavad Gita and I intend to have it inscribed on my upper left shoulder. This time, I will harbour no plans or illusions about the permanence of anything other than that of the Sanskrit verse on my shoulder; this time, I will learn to love without needing to know the world.

  • http://billglover.co.uk/ Bill

    Are you able to post the Sanskrit verse? I’d love to see if I can remember it.

  • Jillian.

    Your orientalism knows no bounds does it?

  • Jane

    “It is regretful we have an impaired democracy in which a citizen finds he or she cannot sufficiently be heard except by gathering in one sanctioned park. It is even more regretful this democracy is so impaired that bright men and women consider the right to assembly and to be heard more valuable than the demagoguery involved. ”

    You know what’s even more regretful? Your cowardice. Oh, and choosing to not being able to see the event for more than the person organising it and the personalities around it. If you don’t attend that’s fine. But in defending your refusal to attend, you piss on it, attack it and trivialised the 5000 passionate people who dared to turn up and make a stand – precisely what E has been doing on redquEEn years back and disagreeing with indignation. This cause is bigger than them and it IS bigger than demagoguery which by the way you are complicit in for choosing to obsess over it. Do you think the attendees cared or knew about that? We had a cause, and we stood by it despite its shortcomings. Disagree for all you want but while wading in your overbearing self-righteousness, remember, when Singapore stops being that impaired democracy you find so regretful and moves forward, people will look back at this protest and think, “Yes, that was a historical moment.”

    But you weren’t there. And what’s worse? You thought you were too good for it.