Most hospital clowns can manage a bandaid. Doctor Rohini Rau, on the other hand – juggles a whole emergency ward and a prescription for laughter side by side.
However, if you’ve been following Chennai’s theatre circuit, then you know that this 28-year-old is no stranger to acting. “I’ve been on stage ever since I was 11, so when I became a doctor this seemed like the perfect way to bring those two worlds together,” says the duty medical officer who is less than a year-old at Kauvery Hospital.
The idea was sparked when her mother Aysha Rau of Little Theatre was doing an online course on Child Psychology and happened to be put in touch with a medical clown last year. Shortly after, 13 actors went through a three week workshop with the New York Goofs, a clown school – of course at the end of it, Rohini was the only certified ‘medical’ clown being the only doctor in the group.
While she does everything from sing Old MacDonald in Tamil for kids in the ICU to pull out her fake syringe that doubles up as a flute – for Rohini the best part of the job is that this prescription of meds works instantly. “You should see their faces, patients just light up when there is a little fun in the room. And we get the nurses to join in as well, so that way instead of being perceived as the strict ladies that yell for injections, they appear more human to the kids.”
And it isn’t just the little ones who enjoy the clowning around, as it turns out Rohini and her clown colleagues get just as much enthusiasm from senior citizens, some as old as 90!
With a session a week at both the Government Children’s Hospital, Egmore and Kauvery Hospital, Alwarpet – the troupe usually plans their routine well ahead of time. It is noteworthy to mention that whether this covers a mime, a story or a joke – each flight of humour is designed to empower the patient. “After a major surgery, you often feel out of control with your body, or even helpless to make decisions. So we put it back in their hands as clowns…failing humourously and miserably at a simple task like opening a door, but then giving the patient the power to use the magic word that will only then have it open.”
And in the end, the smiles are contagious. For a few moments, folks that are sick ‘forget’ to be patients, and just be.
Blurb: Research shows that patients need less painkillers and anaesthesia after a generous dose of laughter.
This article published in The New Indian Express on March 3, 2016.