Ravindran is a 28-year-old man who acts most of the time as any normal adult would. But he has a vocation that gives him the privilege of playing a different character in him.

He clowns around for a living. At least for now. Before that, he served for six years with the Boys Brigade, a Christian youth organisation. Towards the later part of those six years, he learned that it didn't just enhance communication with the youths, that "clowning around" was also fun for him.

So he embarked on a training programme, somewhat informally, under the watchful eye of Allan Yong, an established ventriloquist, clown and magician. The training took no more than two weeks, as a natural transformation quickly happened.

"It is fun to play out another character inside you," Ravi says, straight-faced. "When I put on my costume, the Spotty character takes over."

Spotty is a white-faced clown, with a hobo character -- innocent, naive, and easily bullied. This afternoon, the transformation takes place in a home in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.

"I will put on the clown suit," Ravi says.

He disappears into a changing room. Minutes later, he reappears in a blue and yellow jumper peppered with yellow crescents and stars. That is complemented with a white and red-striped shirt, and a pair of bright red and yellow socks. He opens his suitcase, a green antique-like, run-down, chequered case, and takes out a white box with several bottles of face paint for his make-up. With hairband strapped round his head, the process of the make-over begins.

"I start by drawing outlines first," Ravi explains.

His eyes are focussed, his concentration is obvious. So it goes: outlines on his cheeks, then above is eyebrows, and finally around his lower lip area. That done, the stereotypical perpetual smile on a clown's face becomes apparent.

As he begins painting his face white, he explains that he loves to work with children, and perform for them.

"I feel like I want to be like them -- to be a child again," Ravi says. "As a clown, I can become just like one of the kids and automatically, we begin to relate with each other."

Holding the mirror, he powders his painted face to set the foundation. Then he works with the red paint, and the black. He touches up. Soon, he is ready for the final touches.

First, his red button nose, which cost him about RM70, is mounted on with some glue. He tweaks it a little for fit, and once satisfied with it, his face brightens up with the prospect of becoming wholly Spotty.

Actually, somewhere along the way, he had already transformed into Spotty. The way he walked, the way he talked, the way he smiled, the way he gestured, they had all have become childlike. The transition from Ravi to Spotty was smooth, not abrupt. I almost want to call it natural, but I don't think "natural" is the best word to use here.



"Hello, my name is Spotty. Uncle, what are you doing?" he enquires, as I take photographs of him.

I continue taking photographs, not realising he is actually talking to me. But in his childlike innocence, he looks expectantly for an answer.

After pausing a moment, his polite smile disappears into a minor confusion. His sad eyes now become the main feature of his face. "Uncle, what are you doing?" he says again, somewhat meekly, but no less tunefully as the first time he said it.


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