Mumbai, Feb 4 : The names of Fif Fernandez and her partner Hamish Boyde may not fit the traditional definition of the word 'entertainers', but the duo has been spreading joy a noble fashion.
They are medical clowns by profession, and their job is regaling cancer patients, particularly children stricken by the disease.
Fif and Hamish founded MeDiClown Academy in Auroville with a vision to attract youngsters to the profession of medical clowning, which is not yet a popular concept in India.
On February 4, which is World Cancer Day, the couple opened up on how cancer continues to be a taboo in India.
"Our vision and mission is to train over 5,000 people to become medical clowns across India across sectors like healthcare, hospitals, schools and colleges, and corporates.
This was our career when we were in Canada. This is a global career which started in 1986. We want to make it more popular in India," Fif Fernandez told IANS.
"Many people think that medical clowning in particular is about laughter and fun.
Yes, that is a part of it. But our approach is, what is initially important is to create a heart connection with the patient, the student, the doctor and the family.
It is an intimate heart connection. Sometimes humour may come out of it, sometimes not. But that is the essence and beginning of our contact with people," added Hamish Boyde.
The number of people dying from cancer in India every year is alarming, a root cause of the disease being extremely high consumption of tobacco here.
Many celebrities including Bollywood stars still promote tobacco products, and products like cigarettes and pan masala continue to pose a health threats.
On World Cancer Day 2020, India stands far away from being a cancer-free nation.
"In India cancer is still such a taboo, we don't talk about cancer," said Fif who got inspired to take up the profession of medical clowning after losing her aunt to the disease.
She added: "My aunt was a medical doctor in Chennai, she died of pancreatic cancer. It was because of her I first started doing clowning. When I was 12 years old, I would accompany her when she used to visit elderly patients. I have worked with cancer patients in Mumbai's slums and elsewhere."
Talking about how the mental health of cancer patients is often not paid adequate attention to in India, she said: "We don't take care of the psychological needs of cancer patients.
We need to take care of the body, mind and soul of the patient first. Someone may have lost a breast, someone may have lost a testicle, they suffer from hair loss. We try to make them feel a little relaxed. When you begin to laugh, you have a lot more endorphins going inside, which heals you."
Hamish added how they use music to communicate with patients, especially kids and make them feel better.
"We use music also because in many ways it is more communicative than language. Neither if us speak Tamil or Hindi, so our communication with patients is freer that way. We don't see the disease, we see the beautiful soul. So we try to make a contact with the soul. Music plays a big part in that because it is the universal language along with laughter and joy."
Founded in 2013, MeDiClown Academy aims to transform health and social well-being through Medical Clowning in rural and urban India.
The founders Fif Fernandes and Hamish Boyd were recently here in Mumbai as a part of India's friend for the Health and Fitness sector for WeSchool's 'Friends of India' Initiative 2020.