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Rediff.com  » Getahead » Meet Karan Sidhu, the first Indian to get his eyeballs tattooed

Meet Karan Sidhu, the first Indian to get his eyeballs tattooed

Last updated on: November 02, 2017 12:38 IST

A sclera tattoo is extremely risky and fairly new, the effects of which are not yet fully understood. There was a 50 per cent chance that he would lose his vision!

Tattoographer Karan Sidhu

Melbourne-based tattoo artist Howard Howie Rollins, who claims to be the first person to have experimented with the technique in 2007, is the one who gave Karan Sidhu his all-black eyes.
Photograph: Photograph: @tattoographer/Instagram.

 

"So what was the risk?" I ask.

"There was a 50 per cent chance that I would lose my vision," says Karan Sidhu, the first person in India to get a scleral tattoo -- a rare procedure to colour the white of the eye.

Knowing what he could lose, he still underwent the invasive procedure.

To understand why he did it, one needs to dive deeper into his psyche.

Sidhu has been sketching, doodling and making tattoos since he was a teenager. He would be recognised for his art much later, but those days at school, his popularity and confidence were at an all-time low.

"I used to be extremely skinny, and other kids used to call me names. The insults used to pierce through me," says Sidhu.

He said he suffered from depression because of the bullying, and that he got out of it by practising ardent physical and mental discipline.

The 28-year-old Delhiite has beefed up a lot since. He says he hits the gym every day at 3 am after working till late.

Sidhu got his first job at 16. In college, he worked as a part-time waiter for ₹300 a night.

"Although I share a beautiful relationship with my family," Sidhu says, "I stopped taking money from them since [then]."

He soon became a professional tattoo artist and opened a studio in West Delhi's Punjabi Bagh, which goes by the name of Tattographer Karan. That's also his name on Facebook, Instagram and could well be on his passport, if he has his way.

 

Tattoographer Karan Sidhu

Karan Sidhu is slowly building up to his own tattoo -- a one-piece body suit from head to toe.
Photograph: @tattoographer/Instagram.

 

While his job is to ink and pierce his clients, he is slowly building up to his own tattoo -- a one-piece body suit from head to toe. "It will cover each body part, from head to toe, and connect from front to back," he explains.

The eye tattooing, clearly, is not his only audacious and unprecedented goal. 

Doctors were vehemently against it. Sidhu says he met with leading doctors in Delhi before the procedure. "I was in perfect mental and physical health. However, since there was no medical precedent for such a surgery, ophthalmologists were outraged by the risks. But I had already made up my mind," he says.

A sclera tattoo is extremely risky, experimental and fairly new, the effects of which are not yet fully understood. The ink is sandwiched between the conjunctiva (the thin uppermost layer of the eye) and sclera (the white part) to colour it.

"It is injecting dye into the eye. If it goes any deeper, it can cause complications such as severe infection, detachment of the retina, cataract or even permanent loss of vision," cautions Prashant Choudhary, senior consultant, ophthalmology, Aakash Healthcare.

Melbourne-based tattoo artist Howard Howie Rollins, who goes by the alias Luna Cobra, claims to be the first person to have experimented with the technique in 2007 on three individuals. He's also the one who gave Sidhu his all-black eyes. "I couldn't have trusted anyone, except the one who created it," says Sidhu.

"Yes, people are now going blind from eyeball tattooing," reads a warning on Smith's own website in capital letters, although he says all his clients are doing "okay".

"If I go back five years, would I do it again? Probably not. Yes, the tattoo wouldn't have existed, but even if one man goes blind, it's too high a price to pay," Rollins contemplates in a video shot in 2012. He says that while he has perfected his technique over the years, copycats with little know-how are not to be trusted.

Risks range from swelling, photosensitivity, clots and infections to night blindness and permanent blindness. None of the tattoo artists shy away from stating them upfront.

"People ask me if they should permanently colour their eyes like me. I tell them to know the risks, get a full medical check-up and take months to decide," says Sidhu.

He says he has no short-term side effects and no regrets. "I was hungry for it."

I guess it boils down to how much you are willing to risk to modify your body. He likes his eyes all-black, I like the whites to stay white.

Veer Arjun Singh in Delhi
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