We often smile big smiles for another, running extreme horizontals across our faces! None of us want to come across as too neutral or plain insensitive to a face greeting us, do we? How to not smile, I wondered, as I left the session, the very first day at the Clowning workshop.
We were randomly walking on day 1 (as we do!) and as we met through the walk, I realized I didn’t know how to not smile when I didn’t want to. The fear of upsetting another who walked with a smile loomed heavy on me, and so did the desire to lighten up faces off my own. The simple act of looking at another and greeting them with whatever I have, was a herculean task. I realized that even in a circle we are so accepting of another’s unhappiness but seldom of our own. I was feeling sad. I was feeling a big happy. I didn’t know what I was feeling! After having grappled with my many faces, I stumbled upon the fact that feeling a full emotion is a risk I must allow the group to take with me.
Aslam said about a particular session, “बहुत खतरनाक था!” (it was very risky!), as he continued smiling and enjoying the risk of the process. It was very risky; very risky but so liberating! To have finally allowed ourselves to fall into a blanket of safety that we had weaved. Be it in the running of concentric circles with eyes closed, enveloped within its thickness, or simply to walk a path to an unknown beyond, treading on its cushioned safety. I know where I reached! I was an Egyptian queen one day and in Indian Railways’ General dabba on another; but for that I had to trust. We, had to trust in order to move, in order to know -and trust we did.
Unlike big smiles we greet each other with, the breaths we take are rather short and very utilitarian! We breathe so that we live yet we’re mostly unaware of it. However, at the Clowning workshop we learned to breathe with each other. We looked at each other, and much like feeling a full emotion, we tried feeling a full breath, together. In one of Sanyukta’s sharings post a session, she talked of how she felt she was in her body. She arrived at a point much like the rest of us where we felt being in our body in its entirety. A complete, full feeling.
Shahid also shared about a beautiful connection that happens when people breathe together. He says, “to call it magical would be the good thing to do!” What was also magic according to me was to look in the eye, in a semi-eager, semi-unabashed fashion! I say unabashed because Aslam shared about how he is rather shy in life and avoids eye contact. He said, “I was able to establish connections that I wouldn’t otherwise, in the world outside [that] space. I was able to witness and question the idea of how confidently am I presenting myself to the world.”
Confidence is a feeling, I remember, even I held close to myself as I prepared to become a clown at the workshop. I was very ready to be a clown for I had been one previously, with Andres! However, it was when I entered the space with a red nose that I realized it isn’t solely my confidence that the red nose will tap onto but the confidence of sharing a gaze, a breath. The confidence is in the risk of allowing each other a shared gaze. A gaze that we’re well aware will slip from one to another, but never fall. To trust it enough to come back to each one of us and guide us. To not feel sad or left behind or forgotten by momentary loss, as such.
I suppose the risk of being alive and fully present in space, in that moment, is what will drive the clown. I remember Andres’ words very vividly: “You are here, right? Then let’s see what happens! Anything can happen, na? Don’t worry, breathe, breathe with them.” I remember breathing with each one of them. It wasn’t just Ismail, Saddam or Nagma reaching the wall of energy, stopping in front of it, reaching the exact centre or passing by. It was also me; it was each of one of us taking that journey together. Constructing the wall with all of our body’s might, breaking it (but very gently) and making it again. When somebody laughed, we laughed with them. When somebody got scared, everybody’s hearts heaved. You could tell, you could tell it in our breath, in our eyes, in the way we held all our bodies together in space.
Like Jasmine said, a different energy was felt. Shahid calls this energy, “a relaxation of the heaviness in people, through a sharing in eyes.” I’d like to call it a complete share, a full feeling.
Katyayini is an aspiring actor, singer and hoarder of stories! A recent gender graduate, she is interested in all that is at the intersection of theatre, gender and the continuum of personal and public idiosyncrasies.