5 Sept Vellore India: Clowning in Hospitals

We woke up at 6.30am to be ready for 8am to go to the CMC Hospital. We had 4 auto rickshaws for the clowns. Balloons were tied to the rickshaws and we all looked very colourful. As we travelled through Vellore we all waved out the window. I had a colourful bird which I used to catch attention. I was worried we may cause accidents but Indian drivers do have good concentration as everything is so close. Probably less accidents as a result. It was thrilling to watch smiles break out across people’s faces. We had motorbike riders waving, giving the thumbs up, women on the side of the road catching buses smiling as they looked at these colourful European looking clowns going past. It is so beautiful to see the humanity emerge on people’s faces. My friend Tim was very excited. He organised the trip and wondered how the day would progress.

After 3/4 of an hour of weaving, tooting and chaos in the traffic we arrived at the hospital. We got out. I used my whistle to mock directing traffic. I used my feather duster to dust people down. I also juggled and made out the rickshaw was going to run me over in a joking way. I waved at people and blew kisses. The others were a sea of colour and diversity. Very exciting to watch a group of clowns move through a group and the ripples it causes as the people come to look. At the hospital there are many families there, some sleep in the corridors as they have sick family members there. The CMC hospital is the most famous hospital in India, people travel from across the country to access medical care. The place was crowded apparently 10,000 people a day come to the hospital, numbers you can’t imagine.

I had no idea what was going to happen, quite a few of the clowns with us were not experienced. One of the other experienced clowns was allergic to mosquitoes and was unable to come, so I had to lead a second group. I interacted with everyone. I walked up stairs and juggled played giggled interacted with my eyes, it was making contact with literally thousands of people in a space. The Indian people are themselves good humoured and even those who don’t smile I know just are not sure what to do when clowns are around. I expect they may never have seen them. It is a normal reaction in the West to. So I find I flow through the crowd with a big grin no matter what happens. It is a good metaphor for life as we learn to allow life to be what it is without forcing outcomes, but just living in the moment 100%. I do this all the time that I lose track of time, who I am with as I am completely living in the moment. It is incredible to live this way.

We started in Paediatrics and bounced straight in there meeting some children in beds. You have to take it carefully as they can become scared particularly young children who see a clown for the first time. So I came in juggling, dropped my balls. I get crowd interaction by throwing balls to them. I met some beautiful children. I dragged out my large plastic scissors and comb, and made out I was a hair dresser, doing their hair. That worked very well. One nurse I made out she had nits and picked them out and then ate the nit. They laughed. I played soccer in the hallway with staff. I pulled out my colourful mic and tried to get them to do a Bollywood dance for me, the nurses were very shy. I hugged some doctors, many males were hugged. I was told culturally you don’t hug males, that was why everyone was laughing as I broke the rules. I laughed when told and said I am a Westerner and I will hug men. I had just hugged the Indian Journalist who was doing a story on us. He knew I had a love of Gandhi and I introduced him to the idea of Gross National Happiness.

I made a child laugh with my expanding ball. The kids really like the way it is small and then I sneeze and it opens bigger. I use it as a way of bringing people together as I get them to throw it around. The staff were very interested in our antics. The clown team have a diversity of talents, some juggling, others do magic, blow up balloons, apply stickers, play music, so as a team it is very entertaining. There was much talk of inspiration at the hospital level to start their own creative interventions, particularly for long term patients in rehabilitation.

I met many boys today and smiled and hugged them. Some were attentive others were in pain or afraid, so I tried not to upset them. I do cross the line a bit to see if I can engage them but if I feel they are not interested I move on.

I had some wonderful interactions with older people and people in the rehab hospital (afternoon). Many had spinal injuries, amputations, or disabled in some way. I was able to juggle to gain the crowds interest, blow bubbles. I also have a ribbon which I twirl and make out I am catching people. I told one guy in a wheel chair I would catch some nurses for him. I actually road on the back of this chair which had bicycle pedals for the hands as they can’t use their feet. It was steel structure. I jumped on the back and the guy took me for a spin. I was then invited by the doctors to see a patient who they wanted to watch how I went with. I am sure it was experimental for the doctors and nurses and much discussion will take place. We did have a talk afterwards and I spoke of my emotional intelligence training in Bangkok where I had doctors and nurses dressed up as clown in outpatients. In the evaluation that followed their were comments about feeling freedom for the first time. When you are a clown you are free to be yourself, you are playing with everyone in the vicinity.

It is hard to describe the whole day as there was so much activity. In my own consciousness I don’t always remember as I am so deeply in the moment. I was told I was amazing by other clowns in my group which I truly found surprising as I don’t see myself at all. I can only gauge by people’s reactions how I am received. I saw many smiles and it brought much joy as I genuinely love all the people I see. I do feel the sense of family with everyone.

There were reports from the other clowns of the magic working, the kids so excited and one clown said she had a powerful moment with a 17 year old. She held his hand and put stickers on him, some came around and sang. When she tried to leave he didn’t want to let go of her. All the clowns had stories of people they had connected with and we saw some wonderful photos.

It was our first day clowning in India and I would say it was an unmitigated success. We created something new and people were truly inspired, intrigued, puzzled and uplifted by our presence. There is nothing like spending time with a group of clowns. The Indian clowns who accompanied us were also enthusiastic and wonderful human beings. They are so loving and kind and there is so much laughter coming from the group as we all start to bond. I truly loved my day today and felt satisfied that maybe I added to the greater peace picture through loving human beings as myself.

One Response to 5 Sept Vellore India: Clowning in Hospitals

Mohandas Gandhi

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

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