The tattoo culture in Goa and India is very strong. People from across the country and the world who holiday in India often get tattoos while travelling. They do this as a reminder of their trip, or to signify something special. But what happens when that reminder turns into a nightmare? An experience wherein you are left with a scar rather than a tattoo that signifies hurt and mistrust, on your skin and in your mind. This is what happened to Jamina Anneborg, a Yoga and Reiki practitioner from Sweden who visited Moksha Tattoo Studio in Calangute. What started as a routine tattoo with the owner and senior tattoo artist, Mukesh Waghela, quickly turned into a hellish encounter with sexual harassment.
About a week ago, Jamina posted to her Instagram account screenshots of a review she left on the Moksha Tattoo Facebook page. The one-star review recounts in horrific detail how Mukesh Waghela sexually harassed her to the point where she had to leave the studio without even completing her tattoo. These screenshots were in turn posted by other senior tattoo artists from studios such as Inkfidel Tattoo and Tattoo Cultr. In the near 48 hours since these screenshots have gone up on various social media accounts from professionals in the industry, dozens of women and even former employees have come forward with their own experiences, further corroborating Jamina’s experience.
In the review, Jamina Anneborg starts with how Mukesh Waghela had asked all his employees to leave the studio so he could be alone with her at Moksha Tattoo Studio in Calangute. Once they were gone, he asked Jamina to remove all her clothes, even though the tattoo only covered her back. Jamina asked if she could wear her underwear and pants, but was denied. In fear, she complied since she was locked in the room with him – alone. Seated at her head end, Jamina goes on to recount how he would force her head into his lap so that he could rub his genitalia on her. This went on for a while before, crying, she asked to use the bathroom. She went in, wore her clothes, and refused to take them off. The experience was so disturbing for Jamina, she had to call her mother and keep her on the phone just so that she wouldn’t feel alone with Mukesh.
Jamina ends the review describing the physical and emotional distress that Mukesh Waghela, the owner of Moksha Tattoo Studio, and a respected senior artist in the industry had caused her. She even mentioned how he offered her MDMA (also known as ecstasy) to supposedly ‘calm her down’. She details how she cancelled the pending appointments, and how Mukesh did not even apologise for his behaviour. She implores other girls looking to get tattooed to be careful, vigilant, and to speak up if something like this has ever happened to them. Below are the screenshots of the review that she posted.
Jamina did not expect to receive the support she did. But after the screenshots were picked up by Duncan Viegas, the owner of Inkfidel Tattoo in Assagao and Archana Bhanushali of Ace Tattooz in Mumbai, other former clients started sending in their experiences. Once such client was Amanda Vaz who had come to Duncan for a cover-up of a piece that was done by Mukesh at Moksha Tattoo Studio. Amanda shared her account of a similar experience that she had with the accused, and how she hadn’t come forward earlier thinking that this was all in her head and that she was probably overthinking things.
Other accounts came in from former employees who corroborated Jamina Anneborg’s and Amanda’s experience, by revealing that Mukesh Waghela’s sexual harassment of clients has been happening for a very long time. In their posts, they talk about how they were not allowed to tattoo female clients on their backs, shoulders, ribs, or hips, and that those were to be done exclusively by Mukesh. They say that he would charge them as little as 1000 Rupees per square inch, whereas for a male asking for a tattoo with the same dimensions, he would charge 5000 Rupees. The posts go into detail regarding their mistreatment as employees as well, and how they had no option but to work with him since they had left their homes for this opportunity, and had no choice but to stay.
One particular point that was highlighted by tattoo artist Angel Zimik was the lack of remorse from Mukesh Waghela’s side. Apart from a carefully worded statement where he explains that he is a family man and a professional, his apology came only after he was outed on social media. When Jamina messaged to inform him that she would not be continuing the tattoo because he made her feel uncomfortable, all he said was, “okay thank you”. There was no apology, let alone an inquiry. Once the screenshots went viral and the experiences started coming in, it was then that Waghela messaged Jamina to apologise, and put up a statement from his page.
He also went so far as to have friends and associates try to bury Jamina’s review and balance out other bad reviews that started coming in, by writing ‘fake reviews’ – some even supposedly from celebrities like Virat Kohli, and Chris (spelt Crish) Gayle. This was brought to the fore by Kolkata based tattoo artist Mark Mondal (aka Art is Mark).
According to her Instagram account, Jamina Anneborg is in talks with a lawyer regarding taking legal action against Mukesh Waghela and Moksha Tattoo Studio. Her experience has been shared by many senior tattoo artists who have condemned Waghela’s behaviour for maligning the entire tattoo community. Both the artists and Jamina have called for others to come forward and share their experience if any. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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Disclaimer: The events reported in this story and information contained therein, are solely based on comments issued by Jamina Anneborg through her social media platforms, and do not reflect the views and opinions of ItsGoa, its writers, and/or its editorial team. ItsGoa bears no responsibility whatsoever for the information contained in the story.