Along with making quirky style statements — noodle strap blouses, bob hairdo and religious tattoos on navel and nape — actor Mandira Bedi is known for apologetically following her heart.
However, it has not been a smooth ride.
In 2010, the actor got into trouble when her Ek Onkar tattoo — that she got made on the back of her neck in 2004 — left some fringe groups fuming.
Mandira recalls, “It all started during the 2007 Cricket World Cup tournament. And people in Punjab [after noticing the tattoo on TV were burning my effigies. I had to put an apology in newspapers, and things became calm for a while. But, a couple of years later, when I had worn a sari for an event in Ludhiana, some photographer clicked a photo and tried to incite things. Then around election time [in 2010], a criminal case was filed against me.” She adds that she felt bad for her parents who had to go through so much “as the apology was put in all vernacular papers in Punjab.”
It was then that she decided to cover it up in 2014. She says, “Although I found out later that there’s no case as such but I decided I’m not going to fight it now. If there are people who are narrow minded and having a problem with something like this, I wanted to get done with them.”
About its new version, she shares, “The central element is an African symbol that means ‘God is great’ and the wings symbolize: ‘now I am free’. Otherwise, whenever I used to go to Punjab, I had to hide my previous tattoo with a bandage or conceal it with makeup.” She also reveals that she went with tears in her eyes to the tattoo artist and asked him to cover it up.
Mandira maintains that it was unfortunate that her beliefs were questioned and taken out of context. “The idea was never to hurt anyone’s sentiment. It’s my body and I am not disrespecting it in any way.
The reason I got it in first place was because it meant [and still means] so much to me. Ek Onkar [God is One] is a beautiful philosophy, and I thought there’s nothing more permanent in my life than this. My grandmother used to have it on her hand and it’s something I’ve grown up with since I was a child,”she says.