Three-year-old Reshma ran out of the small room in the children’s ward in the Government Multi-Specialty Hospital, Sector 16, with tears streaming down her pretty face and then she froze with wonder, as a tall, young man, in a yellow flowery shirt, printed red pyjamas, butterfly tattoos on his face and a red clown’s nose, blew bubbles in the air. Reshma’s sobs grew faint, as she began jumping around, busy catching the colourful bubbles around her. Vinod Bharti, the clown, beamed from ear to ear. It was a job well done, as he moved to another baby crying in her mother’s arms.
Since the morning of January 1, 2016, members of the CEVA Drama Repertory Company, led by their director and mentor G S Chani, have been spreading joy and happiness with unconditional love in various wards of the hospital, with clowning, an initiative that will be implemented on a regular basis in hospitals and destitute homes in Chandigarh.
Clown acts of CEVA Drama Repertory Company are being regularly staged at various public places, schools and colleges. “I feel clowning, which releases so many emotions, can work wonders in hospitals to relieve the pain and tension of patients and their attendants. We need more than medicines to heal and if hospital administrators could spend 10 minutes viewing their hospitals through the eyes of a hospital clown, there would be a clown in every corner of their hospitals,’’ smiles Chani.
Everyone is happy to see a clown, quips Chandrashekhar, a senior actor and theatre director, and part of CEVA. He is in the orthopaedic ward, showing off his hoopla skills to patients, who clap and encourage him to carry on longer. It’s not a performance, Chandrashekhar is quick to add, as he adjusts his cartoon-shaped goggles; the idea is to lighten the tension, and be part of the moment.
“The most gratifying moment was when two patients decided to join our dance. They even sang a song,” smiles Jasvir Kumar, an actor, adding that no one walks by without smiling.
It is not so much about antics, or circus skills, or jokes, Kumar says the clown personifies the vulnerability and sweetness of life. “We connect with that inner child that is inside of everyone just dying to get out and play. There is a difference between being funny and being fun. When you are fun to be with, you are sharing your joy,” explains Ambhimanyu, another actor who used hand puppets and sounds to get the patients’ attention.
“An old woman was laughing and crying at the same time, seeing our antics, and joked with us, telling how she fell down the terrace and broke her back while watching two cats fight. She had all of us in splits with her stories,’’ smiles Ambhimanyu, listening intently to a young boy admitted here, making the sound of dholki with his mouth.
Children, reflect the actors, see them somewhere between their favourite aunt and a teddy bear — gentle and not threatening, funny and ready to play with anything and anyone. “It is easy to hug a clown, and easy to talk to a hospital clown. A clown makes doors and windows, minds, eyes and hearts open,’’ explain the actors.
Healing by the use of humour, says Chani, has become popular over the last few years and this practice has been implemented in paediatric wards as well as in other faculties of hospitals. In the framework of healing by humour, use is made of a medical clown who is in fact a person who has undergone special training in acting and clowning, combined with medical knowledge and an understanding of patient behaviour. “It’s an act that brings us closer to ourselves and others, and sharing brings us joy.”