Doses from red noses

Fun Therapy

Doses from red noses

They may have the classic red nose, wear oversized shoes, perform tricks and play pranks but the truth is they are not just clowning around.

They are the clown-doctors who visit the hospitals in the City to provide free therapeutic clowning to sick children. Only to prove that laughter indeed is the best medicine!

Sanjay Balsaver left his job as a graphic designer to become a clown-doctor. A member of Dr Clown India, he says, “Our motto is to spread the red nose dose of happiness. If you are mentally happy, physical recovery is faster. We visit paediatric wards and spread cheer. Where there is no chance of being happy, we spread happiness,” he elaborates.

No doubt the kids look forward to it as the clown-doctors do a little bit of magic, distribute balloon models and see that the kids are smiling. But they also make sure that they don’t impose themselves on the kids. The clown-doctors follow a
hygiene protocol and do not use vibrant make-up. Joseph ‘Jocken’ from Germany, also a member of Dr Clown India, has been in the City for two years. Says Joseph, “I came
to India on invitation from Dr Clown India. I got involved and stayed on in Bangalore. So far, the clown-doctors here work on a volunteer basis like in the West. But finding volunteers is hard as people want to be paid for their services.”

“To see the children smile makes my day. The doctors and nurses too are very helpful. And I don’t mind serving as a volunteer,” he adds.

The concept of clowning, however, has been a highly misunderstood one in India. Sanjay says, “We started with 16 clowns. Now, there are just two. People are not
interested. They are scared of being infected. But I would
say that one is more likely to get infected in a shopping mall,” he informs.

On all counts, it’s not possible to discount the power of humour. Chittaranjan
Andrade, HOD, Department of Psychopharmacology, NIMHANS, points out, “When sick people are entertained and when they laugh, their mood lightens.

There
is an increased release of healthy chemicals and hormones in the brain and body, and a decrease in stress and stress-related chemicals. This can have a positive effect on health outcomes. Clown therapy in itself cannot cure illness but it can improve outcomes or well-being and quality of life in persons who are sick.”

Sanjay and Joseph regularly entertain kids at St Philomina’s Hospital with their tablets of jokes. “Every human being has an aura. We call it the bubble. We interact with the kids but make sure not to damage the bubble,” says Sanjay.

Ask Dr Andrade whether clown therapy can be extended to grown-ups and he says, “There should be talented and motivated clowns and magicians who can perform empathetically to people of different ages and in different states of health; this is far from easy. What amuses a child is different from that which amuses an adolescent or an adult; and people with different kinds of sickness and with different severities of sickness need different kinds of performances,” he adds.

“There should also be administrators, doctors, and nurses who are willing to
permit clown therapy in their hospitals and wards. The performers should be adequately paid to stay motivated. I think it’s wrong to expect professionals to volunteer for a time-consuming and emotionally draining activity such as this. Hospitals, doctors, nurses, and other medical staff receive salaries and incentives; why not clown therapists?” asks Dr Andrade.

Sanjay, meanwhile, has also held workshops to train volunteers paying from his own pocket. “We make someone laugh when they are not ready for it. I don’t want the concept to die even after I die,” he adds. And that is no laughing matter!

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