Clowns help kids laugh away to recovery

Making a flower vanish or turning a rupee coin into a two rupee coin is cakewalk for Dr Boing. He manages to entertain sick children at the same time.

The man with a red nose greets you politely and hands you a flower. You put your hand out and the red plastic flower shrinks away from you. Meet Dr Boing, a.k.a Sanjay Balsavar.

Docteur Clown

Dr Boing says, medicines take time to cure patients, but I give instant cure – a smile.
Pic: Meera K

Balsavar, 37, is a magician and a clown by choice and a graphic designer by profession.  At the age of 8, fascinated by magic tricks he used to collect pocket money to buy magic books which were costly then. Building his repertoire of tricks, he has been entertaining people especially children, for over 30 years.

A little more than a year ago, Balsavar came across a course for clowning at Alliance Francaise by Docteur Clown, an NGO which provides free assistance to medical teams in hospitals for speedy recovery of sick children. This was the birth of Dr Boing, the clown who can also do magic!

Balsavar is  a part of the seven member group of Docteur Clown, Bangalore. This group visits pediatric wards at city based hospitals dressed as clowns and entertains sick children. They divert children’s attention from the usually scary hospital mood –  injections, medicines and monstrous machines to a joyous one. He says, it is a delight to see a glowing smile on their faces.

“It means the world to me”, he says. The group also takes special care not to scare the children. As a precaution, Docteur Clown members wear minimal make up and if any child gets scared, they quickly recede.

One experience that Balsavar most often comes across in his hospital visits is that the children refuse to let him go from one bed to the other. "Don’t go, stay with me", is the usual reaction, he says.

We never promise to see them again”, he says adding it would imply they are expecting to see the same children still in hospital during their next visit.

Docteur Clown members are also very particular about hygiene as much as they care about the childrens’ emotions. They do not touch the children while they are entertaining them. They head home immediately after their hospital visits and sterilise their clown costumes keeping them ready for their next visit.

Transition seems to come naturally to Balsavar. If at one moment he talks about magic continuously losing its charm or about philosophies of life with immense conviction, the very next moment a sentence such as, ’I am also a doctor’, might take someone by surprise.

With a nod and a smile he would quickly say, "See medicines take time to cure patients, but I give instant cure – mental cure which is (a) smile."

Docteur Clown India is an offshoot of the NGO Docteur Clown, based in Lyons, France, and is in India as a cultural activity of the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore. Their clown-doctors do the rounds at various hospitals around the city, to provide free therapeutic clowning to sick children in the paediatric wards. They also hold workshops to train more volunteers to become clowns. And from time to time, they put on a show for the members and friends of the Alliance Francaise. (Source Docteur Clown India)

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