Compassionate Clowning in Bangalore
For the last few months, a bunch of volunteers have been experimenting with Compassionate Clowning in Bangalore. My journey in clowning began when I bumped into a clown from Australia (Brett) at an orphanage on Christmas eve, where I was playing guitar and he was being his clown self. We clicked instantly, it was as if we were just meant to meet. Our journey began there, where we played carols on the streets, danced around, made merry and a strong, unflinching bond was created between us.
I accompanied him on several visits to hospitals, orphanages, and other institutions where we entertained children and adults with music, laughter, spontaeneous silliness, and love. I learnt so much about humility, sensitivity, and giving from my friend such that clowning almost has become a calling for me.
It is known that clowning and humour promotes wellness and reduces stress in patients, caregivers and staff in hospital settings and I saw that for my self first hand through clowning. My friend who inspired me returned to Australia last week, and left me some of his clowning gear, so I wondered how best I can put what I learnt to use. I connected with some friends who I thought would be interested, and we went to a nearby hospital ( St.Johns Hospital) where Brett and I had visited once before. The experience was magical. We visited three paediatric wards, and initially spent some time building rapport with the children and their caregivers and then we got on to clown mode. We made faces, poked fun at each other, danced around the ward, sang silly songs, made balloon animals for the kids, blew bubbles, and did other rediculous things that felt so real and joyous.
The smiles and the laughter that we received from the children and their parents made our day. The laughter was infectious and it spread everywhere. Children who were initially in bed watching us, got off them and danced with us, and they pulled pranks on us. The clown noses were a hit, because we nuzzled their noses with our clown noses and that brought about an immediate sense of connection and kinship. We also had sock puppets which we used to cover the cannula's that the kids had on their hands, and interestingly the pain seemed to fade away even for a slight moment. The puppets had some amusing conversations with each other and that I felt promoted emotional expression and sharing.
We were nearing the end of our clowning spree at the hospital and we all sang ' We shall Overcome' in Hindi and English, which felt very fitting at that point of time. We were about to leave when we realized that the nurses and the doctors also needed some laughter and fun. We headed to the nurses station and managed to gather all of them including the duty doctor for a little action song cum dance. It was beautiful, the way they began giggling, and smiling. It felt to me as if they were transported back to their childhood and I certainly was whisked away, back to mine. We did the " Banana Dance" with the staff and they loved it.They were children for those couple of minutes when we were all dancing and somehow a child to child stance was born rather than the authority figure to child. This was fascinating.
We walked through the rest of the hospital, saluting random security guards, saying 'hello' to other patients and the masks we dropped when we wore our clown noses stayed off even when we left the hospital. It was a powerful experience and the connections I made with both my friends and the people we clowned for was something very different and special. The joy was spreading in ripples everywhere and we just could not stop smiling.
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