One week here and I feel like the vibrant chaos of this city has started to infiltrate my mind. I’ve been trying to formulate thoughts for a blog for days, but everything is coming out in a jumble of colliding thoughts. Nothing fully formed, nothing quite articulate, but so much I feel I want to share.
This weekend Igor and I delivered training to what will hopefully form a new community of healthcare clowns here in Bangalore. Community feels like the right word, and already after this weekend, it feels tangible.
The Sunday afternoon after our session seemed to reverberate with the themes of our teaching. Our focus had been the game, improvisation and the comic body, and at every turn it seemed we were offered up the chance to notice these things in daily life. The importance of committing to the game, regardless of your aptitude to do it well. Noticing when the game is over and letting it go. Knowing my interest, pleasure, joy in something is what makes that thing interesting for someone else. Celebrating our own uniqueness and difference.
We were invited to a cultural event organised by the Namak Art Experience and arrived at the venue an hour early. We saw that there was a Bachata dance class - wonderful! We took off our sandals and joined in at the back with gusto. Not even 2 steps in, somebody came to let us know the class was full. We promptly put our sandals back on and left.
Next idea! Let’s go to this nearby park and relax under a tree! Google maps showed a huge area of green trees just a five minute walk away. We found a gate and entered a tiny walled garden. Not like a The Secret Garden, but a triangle of dusty plants, a rickety path, broken benches, dry, brown leaves and a huge wall topped with rusting barbed wire. I looked at the park sign and saw it was called ‘Colony Park’. Hmmm.
On the way back we spotted a goat tied to a post. She had the most disproportionately long ears imaginable. They almost reached her knees, and gave her a forlorn look. Her eyes, alien-like and positioned on the side of her head, gave her an added air of confusion. There she was just irresistibly being herself. Igor gently strokes her shoulder. She leans in.
When we arrive at the venue it is all hands on deck to help out with food. We insert ourselves into a chain of activity, putting different items on plates, handing out the food. I love this feeling of synergy, of being a part of a team, the way a game can turn something stressful into play and fun. The satisfaction when things run smoothly, the humour when they don’t. Within a few minutes I feel that I am friends with the rest of the team. We are laughing and being silly, and I am unselfconsciously being myself.
Today we went for tea with a writer, theatre maker, and director who gave his perspective on India. Spiritual and religious beliefs being harnessed by politicians to fuel division and hate in order to garner power and support. People being killed for as little as passing through the land of a higher caste member, women beaten for wearing the ‘wrong’ clothes, writers murdered for criticising the government.
As he was talking I understood this new clown community in a more urgent way. Beyond what clowning can do in healthcare settings, I wonder if clowning here can offer a unique space that transcends these divisions, differences and hate?
As bel hooks says;
“Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, revelling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.” Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, 2003
I dearly hope that this is what we are creating here, with this group.
I am a therapeutic clown and performer. Writing here is part of my wider practice and maybe some of my thoughts will trigger some thoughts of your own and I hope that helps.