Not many of us feel our lives are really “sorted”. For many even the definition of it isn’t clear. Our job is far from perfect, relationships are fucked up and money is just never enough. Are we just going to live in the drudgery of getting stuck in a loop – get up in the morning, smell the coffee, drag ourselves to our workplaces, work our asses off, and go on repeat mode for the rest of our lives? I often wonder if there is no greater cause for the individual that I am? Most of us let such questions hover in our minds, like molecules when heated, but never press ‘stop’ and get over our procrastination. But some of us stick out. Recently, I met up with one such rockstar, who gladly left the rat race and got out of the rut, to do what makes him a happier person. Here are a few excerpts of our free-flowing conversation…
Welcomed by 2 four-legged buddies for this interview – Milkha, a mutt and a beagle named Doobie, I soon found myself sitting across Karan Singh – an avid reader, fierce observer, and an over-thinker intrigued by psychology as a subject. The first thing you notice about the calm demeanour of Karan are his tattoos. Over his coffee and my steaming cup of adrak-wali chai, we started speaking about his 4 tattoos and the things he is most passionate about – wildlife, wood work, history of music and the evolution of musical instruments.
From what this self-confessed recluse tells me, he spends most of his time at home and barely steps out of his ‘chaar deewar’. Oh and by home, he means his basement workshop where he makes guitars by hand. Yes, you read that right, Karan is also a skilled luthier. If you didn’t know already and were looking for something like this then, under the banner of Bigfoot Guitars, Karan makes the coolest custom-made guitars – using hand-picked wood, carved and chiselled into the right shape, polished to a finish imparting a texture unique to hand-made instruments. I am sure you could imagine what my expression would have been like…
For one, master luthier Karan-made instruments look gorgeous, it feels killer when you hold them and are intonated in a manner absolutely alien to assembly line guitars making you want to go crazy with them beasts. This is as niche as it can get, and Karan’s manifestation of his interest in music, passion for wood-work and craftsmanship of various instruments all together breathe life into Bigfoot Guitars, which he believes has been his most fulfilling endeavour. “The joy to see the customer pick up the instrument you’ve made is unsurpassable, and the smile on their face when they strum the first chord is heartening. Great for the ego, but just also very heartening,” he chuckles.
It’s surprising that this multifaceted guy has previously worked at a bank in Bombay, as a body piercing artist at tattoo studio Funky Monkey in Delhi, a trek guide who took groups of people for adventure sports and more in Tibet and Nepal and has primarily been in the field of corporate training for over a decade. This dexterous man is also now a father to a 2-year old charm! While he was showing me around his workshop and I was checking out the fancy guitars on display, we got down to talking about his tattoos.
3 peeking wolves tattooed on his arm kept distracting me. Finely designed, this was an in-progress tattoo which Karan is getting done from Kamal of Funky Monkey Tattoo Studio, after a 13-years long hiatus from getting inked. His recent body art of 3 wolves depict his family – daddy wolf, mommy wolf and baby wolf. Above them is a mandala signifying love, peace and joy – the three things vital to Karan’s universe, which he believes form the very pivot around which every other element of life revolves.
His first was a tribal design on his back when he was all of 18, which doesn’t signify as much. Did you just roll your eyes? Well, hey! At least it was no girlfriend’s name! In fact, he says during his stint as a body piercing artist at Funky Monkey, he spent a lot of time convincing young boys and girls to NOT commit the grave mistake of getting their then-significant others’ names inked! Most of them are thanking you wherever they are, Karan.
The other tattoo on his forearm was designed way back by his sister. It’s an Aztec piece inspired by what these ethnic groups of Central Mexico worship, and around it is a feathered serpent which symbolises the ying and yang, positive and negative, light and dark. Fun fact: This was also his first tattoo at Funky Monkey, which is where he is back for the wolves tattoo now.
What’s also really interesting is a combination of a wolf, lion and an owl tattooed on his calf. Owl for wisdom, lion symbolising his family name and wolf he says is the animal he associates the most with. “Wolves are very active members in a pack when in one, which in my case could mean family, but they also have the quality to function very well alone, for example when I’m doing my own thing, in my own head space. Both these characteristics are clearly defined, structured and divided within me,” he adds. The tattoo was inspired by a Native American tradition in which every time a member of the community died, on his tombstone would be etched an animal whose characteristics would be closest to that of the dead, to bring out what that person signified, almost like an epitaph.
Hope you enjoyed hitch hiking to guitar-maker Karan’s galaxy and getting to know his tattoo stories as much as I did! Stay tuned to Tattoo Cultr for more. Follow the writer of this story, Raksha Bihani on Twitter for more interesting stories.
PHOTOS: Anas Ali and Raksha Bihani
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