Hi, I am Sheetal, a social anthropologist by training, lecturer by profession and a BIG clown at heart.
I love smiling and I believe smiling and seeing people smile is the greatest gift one can ever have and this is what motivated me to start ‘clownselors’- a volunteer group that strives to bring smiles on faces of the ailing and recuperating children, the health givers, and the parents caring for the children at the hospitals. Clownseling or medical clowning is a therapy used to reduce pain, anxiety and stress using humor. Clownselors visit Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya (CNBC) every Saturday to help in the healing process.
I never in the craziest of my imaginations thought that I would be doing something like this, in fact I had not even heard of medical clowning and knew nothing about Clownseling until January 2016. But, I was always obsessed with smiles; I always thought smile can do wonders; one pure smile can turn a bad day into a good day. So, when I heard of medical clowning I was intrigued for obvious reasons and wanted to be a part of this noble cause. I started looking for people involved in clowning in Delhi hospitals, but could not find anyone for a long time, paving the path for me to start clownseling in Delhi and since then there has been no looking back. Clownseling started on 9th July 2016 with six enthusiastic volunteers from different professional fields who painted their faces, donned clown hats and shared a common goal of spreading smiles. Cheer engulfed the atmosphere as clowns sang and danced with the children, played with them using balloons, did small theatrical acts. It was an experience to see children bursting into laughter; parents’ tear-filled eyes seeing their child smile and amusement on the faces of doctors & nursing staff. That was the first-time I realized what satisfaction and fulfilment actually feels like!
The focus of clownseling is to de-stress ailing children as well as parents, nurses and doctors. With balloons, wigs, red nose and a big smile painted on our faces, Clownseling begins from the OPD. The next stop is the in-patient wards. Generally, we distribute in groups of three or four, enter a room where there are five to seven children recuperating. We then perform some acts using mimes, puppets and engage even the parents in a game or two.
The response has been extremely positive. At times, doctors have come looking for the Clownselors and directing us to certain wards. Even nurses ask the team to play with specific children who have been ailing for long or are not responding to medication. Recently, we have been asked to go to pre-operative care too. The director of CNBC has been very encouraging and appreciative. The best response is from parents who at times reward the Clownselors for making their children smile. We have heard parents saying ‘my child is smiling after so many days, he would be fine now’, ‘I was desperate to see him laugh, finally he laughed’, ‘my daughter wasn’t eating anything, after playing she ate something’. These are the moments that truly inspire us!
Clownseling has not only helped the patients but has changed my whole life, from a girl who was completely into academics and had quit her job to do a PhD in social anthropology and saw her future as an academician, I have become a ‘clown doctor’. My life completely revolves around clownseling now- if I am not doing it, I am thinking and planning about it. This has been an extremely interesting journey.
It is like I couldn’t find my passion but the passion found me. While many believe that this is social work and selfless service or charity but the real reason why I am doing this is coz I love seeing those smiles and it leaves me smile-hungover for days. Most of the times we undermine the power of a simple smile, it has the greatest healing properties and can help in worst of situations, so please don’t forget to smile!
Founder Clownselors | Spreading Happiness