Mano Charchae: For Compassionate Clowns, Clowning is No Joke

There are so many things we could be doing over a weekend. While some of us choose to lounge on a couch or go watch the sunrise from a hilltop, a few individuals step into hospitals with one mission on their minds – make sure that the ones in the hospital, children and adults alike, patients, parents and the staff alike, get a chance to blow off some steam.

These individuals belong to an organisation known as Compassionate Clowns.
In 2013, Harish Bhuvan and his friend had their ‘Eureka!’ moment when they saw a man clowning on MG Road in Bengaluru. They wondered if they could take this art form to places where there would be routine distress and help alleviate some of it. They decided to take it to hospitals, and within three months, the duo became a fixture.

The Compassionate Clowns team believes that pain and gratitude can never exist together. They use Clowning as a means to minimise stress and maximise happiness.

Clowning as we know it uses humorous acts for the purpose of entertainment. It holds within it a therapeutic (healing or de-stressing) element as well. Therapeutic or Clinical Clowns go to hospitals and engage with children and adults, diagnosed and otherwise.

According to a 2017 study by Amy J Stephson:

“Medical clowns are not just entertainers or a nice “extra.” Rather, they are
highly trained professionals who play a vital role in the treatment of children and adults in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, helping the patients, their families, and the medical staff. Clinical Clowns Help in reducing anxiety, increasing interpersonal relations in children and help reduce the stress experienced by parents and the nursing staff working with hospitalized children.”

Training:

Compassionate Clowns ensures that there are no mishaps during clowning. The customary clowns are trained and educated about The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), inculcating strict habits of practicing safe touch and so on. They have four training modules for their clowns which are three hours, eight hours, one week and one month long.

The Clowning Sessions:

This is how the Clowning sessions begin – clowns with painted faces gather in a circle, the first-timers express what they think they will be doing when they walk into the wards, there is a minute of complete silence for expressing gratitude for everything they have and had, and then the basic rules of Compassionate Clowning are announced. They are:

A) No Toxic Humor
B) No giving children anything to eat
C) No using mobile phones to engage with the children
D) When someone exclaims, “Compassionate?” they must reply with “Clowns!”

The clowns then walk up to the children. Children’s faces light up when they hear the beginning of the ‘Banana Song’. These kids cling to the clowns because their mere presence has them grinning from ear to ear.

Post-Clowning, the clowns gather around in what they call the ‘Reflection Circle’. Everybody shares their experiences, their insights, and their inferences with the rest of the group.

These children, or as the Clowns like to call them, Connections, seem to have the same effect on the clowns as vice versa. The clowns claim that the Clowning sessions are just as cathartic and de-stressing for them as they have the opportunity to look at faces filled with pure gratitude, excitement, and happiness.

This little ecosystem has a growing positive impact on the mental health of everyone who is a part of it.

Listen in for more…

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