Eyeball tattoos, also referred to as scleral tattoos, are a relatively new extreme body modification where needles inject ink into the whites of a person's eyes to permanently dye it a different colour. The long-term effects are unknown.
Karan he says he was 13 when he got his first tattoo. At 16, he started tattooing "as a hobby" and soon, opened up his own tattoo studio in the capital.
"At the moment, I have uncountable tattoos and 22 piercings on me," Karan tells NDTV, adding his full body suit of tattoos is a work in progress. "Eventually, I will just have one tattoo: head to finger and toe tips."
Six months after beginning his ambitious full body suit, the tattoo artist known as 'Tattoographer Karan' began to wonder what he would look like if he had his eyeballs tattooed. He says he spent months debating whether to opt for the permanent procedure and discussed it with his family and friends. "Once they were convinced and knew I was 100% certain... they supported my decision," he says.
The procedure, which cost lakhs, was done by an Australian tattoo artist, who Karan claims invented eyeball tattooing, at a tattoo studio in New York, US.
"Out of the 7.5 billion world population, only a few hundred have it. Out of the 1.3 billion Indian population - I am the first person to have my eyeballs permanently tattooed," he claims proudly.
Karan says he has been asked repeatedly about the pain factor. He turns philosophical in his answer. "My one and only reply is - nothing can hurt me."
"Pain and hurt are perspectives," he elaborates. "Pain is just a fear and limitation in the mind." Though he acknowledges, the procedure was "like a red-hot needle entering your eyeball."
Karan says one place he wasn't expecting to get compliments on his new tattoos was while undergoing a security check at the airport while leaving the US. "I was admired and appreciated," he says.
On social media too, he says he's pleasantly surprised with the largely positive reactions from people. "I was expecting the opposite, considering the unconventional, unique appearance," he admits. "Still, I have been lucky enough to receive love."
If the procedure seems vaguely familiar, it's because at least two incidents of botched eyeball tattoos made headlines earlier this year. In the most recent, a Canadian model was left partially blind. Calling the incident tragic, Karan urges anyone considering eyeball tattoos to get the cutting-edge procedure done professionally.
The self-taught tattoo artist says the body art trend is booming in India. "Eleven years ago, when I started tattooing, the occupation of tattoo artist didn't even exist here. Today, we have artists making tattoo art in every city in India."
Karan says if there's one person he could tattoo, it would be Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "It would be something patriotic, like 'Jai Hind' on his hand," Karan says. "It will go with his powerful persona."
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