If you happen to find red-nosed clowns in city hospitals, do not be surprised. They are here to stay, delivering smiles, giggles and guffaws of laughter to children in hospitals.
Docteur Clown, a non-profit organisation based in France that has its off-shoot centre in the city trains volunteers in helping ailing children recover through humour. At an open forum organised by Sutradhar, a non-profit organisation, play therapists in the city met up under one roof to make the laughter make a difference to many more ailing children in the city. The session was spearheaded by Dr. Meera Oke of the Centre for Human Growth and Development, Pune who has been successfully running a play therapy programme at a Pune hospital since 2006 and clown therapists Nazu Tonse and Mili Jalan of Docteur Clown India who have been working with hospitals in Bangalore since 2006.
“At hospital, the clown works like a release valve to let out the pressures of such an environment. Her presence is thus essential - even if she cannot erase the pain or cure the infection, she plays the part of a happy distraction, a catalyst to enable a child to cope with the experience of hospitalisation. A clown doctor, just like the real doctor, does her rounds, with injections of laughter, pills of love, and healthy doses of red noses.” says one of the therapists.
Training programmes and workshops related to therapeutic clowning is held from time to time which lasts over a period of five to six workshops. Philosophies of clowns, hygiene in hospitals, using one’s body, improvisation and reaching inside to find that clown in you are the few aspects that would be dealt with during the workshop. “It is all about Ahimsa.” says Nazu Tonse ‘Dr. Gladys’, India’s first therapeutic clown.
Here’s what they do with the kids in several hospitals. They sing to them, talk to them, show off their clowning abilities and their favourite is blowing bubbles. Bubbles, they say have very important medical purposes in the form of positive vibes. They never have anything rehearsed and generally play accordingly depending on the type of kids they are dealing with. Hygiene is a prime ordeal and is dealt with much precaution. They ensure that no toy is used by more than one kid.
This concept has been in France and the US for sometime now and India is catching up soon. “Everybody needs a little clown in their life but unfortunately in India we do not have many.” opines Nazu. Here in Bangalore, lot of hospitals and NGOs have taken up play and clown therapies owing to its fruitful healing powers. The likes of Sai Baba Hospital, Manipal Hospital, Kidwai Hospital, St. Philomena’s Hospital, Cradle and NGOs like Asha School, Deepika School, Sutradhar and Samiksha have implemented play therapy as part of their curriculum.
As Nazu puts it, “It is not an easy task to become a clown. You need to reach within to find that clown in you.” All hail the clowning glory!