KOCHI: Harish Bhuvan and his Compassionate Clowns were at one of their lowest points. He even contemplated quitting. ‘After all this, if no one wants clowns in their lives, why should I?’ He might have thought. That was when Karunashraya Hospice in Bengaluru contacted him. Harish was asked to perform there. He decided this was going to be his last time as a clown. However, reaching there, the life trainer/ councillor/ clown/ motivator faced an older audience, unlike his usual lot of kids. “I literally freaked out,” he says. There he was about to make a couple few fatally ill people laugh!
He did perform. And that changed his whole outlook about what he was doing. “After my gig, these people were very happy that they blessed me with most of them placing their hands on my head,” Harish says. “Although we have hit many roadblocks after this, we don’t think of quitting. I have decided that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
‘Compassionate Clowns’ is an out-of-the-box initiative founded by Harish. And what they do is quite unique. They go to hospitals and make people laugh. It’s as simple as that. “We mostly perform for kids. Without mentioning their illnesses, we focus on how companionship can impact people’s lives,” he says. “Technically speaking, we use a somatopsychic technique to bring a positive change in patients. In this technique, the mind is used to cure the bodily illnesses.”
According to Harish, if one keeps on smiling or fake one for some time, his or her mind automatically manipulates the body to recover. Now, why in the world would one become a clown to make others happy? Hmm, an obvious question with an equally obvious answer. “When you’re a clown, you put on a mask. In this cause, it projects a happy image and helps us become better human beings,” says Harish.
It all began a few years ago when Harish got the chance to perform as a clown in front of kids at a hospital. “I liked it very much and I began doing this as a past-time thing. I used to clown on weekends while I worked on weekdays,” he says. Working as an education researcher at Indian Institute of India- Bombay, he quit his job after he was given a promotion. “When I got the promotion, I had a choice. It was either the job or clowning,” Harish says.
And clowning, he chose. Four years ago, he and a group of friends decided to start a group like this. “We didn’t even have a name then,” he says. Initially, hospitals were reluctant and sceptical about the Compassionate Clowns. “We had to go through a lot of procedures to get permissions from hospitals. We even had to perform before the hospital management to get consent. Now, we are known among the doctors’ fraternity.”
The Compassionate Clowns has grown beyond Harish and his friends. “We have close to 2,000 volunteers now,” he says. “When people get to know about our purpose and what we do, they are immediately intrigued and won over. Once I was walking down the street in Bengaluru with my face painted and all. A couple of strangers stopped and asked me what I was doing. A few moments of conversation and they were volunteers.”
Asked if he would ever get bored doing this, Harish says, “I love spending time with children. They are so innocent. If you want to make a change in society, you need to start with them. Children don’t judge you and love you unconditionally. When we grow older, we lose that innocence. In a way, being with them has enabled me to keep my inner child alive and very much awake.” The Bengaluru-based social worker hopes that more people will come forward to take this noble initiative afar. Harish was recently in the city to lead a workshop for the Reader’s Fest, which concluded the other day, at LuLu Mall in Kochi.