KARAPITIYA, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - A tall, lanky man holding a dead fish, his hair dyed luminous blue and wearing clown's pants and shoes jumps out of a tourist bus and runs into a Sri Lankan hospital tending to tsunami survivors.
"Is that man looking for the psychiatric ward?" asked a bemused doctor as she watched him lope past her in the direction of the childrens' wards, hospital security guards in hot pursuit.
American humour therapist Patch Adams plays with tsunami orphans in Hikkaduwa, southern Sri Lanka on March 22, 2005. Patch Adams and his group of 30 clowns are on a week-long tour of laughter and healing along Sri Lanka's tsunami-hit southern coast.
@ REUTERS/Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachch
The man in the clown suit was Dr. Hunter 'Patch' Adams, the American doctor who inspired a Robin Williams movie and has been travelling the world hoping to change it with love and laughter.
"I decided to come to Sri Lanka as I have a great feeling of tragedy and desire to encourage people to rebuild after the tsunami," the West Virginia physician told Reuters in the battered southern coastal town of Karapitiya late on Tuesday.
"Laughter is the best medicine you know." he said.
Patch Adams, whose light-hearted approach to medicine was featured in the 1998 blockbuster of the same name, thinks the tsunami has changed the world for the better.
"Do we bless the tsunami as it has for a moment made people forget their greed for power and think (of) humanity?" asked the doctor who is known for his unorthodox approach of mixing humour with healing and making the sick laugh.
Over the years, Adams and his crew of clowns have travelled to refugee camps and cities in the Balkans, Africa, Afghanistan and Cambodia among others.
The Karapitiya hospital handled over 1,200 bodies in the aftermath of the tsunami that killed around 40,000 people along the Indian Ocean island's southern, eastern and northern shores.
Patch Adams's team of 30 clowns wanted to help hospital staff and patients erase images of the dead from their minds and "bring some joy back in to their lives".
One clown raced down a dimly-lit hospital ward on a unicycle, juggling oranges, another dressed like a macaw sprayed the wards with soap bubbles while a group of three clowns staged an impromptu puppet show for child cancer patients.
"I am missing school but it is not bothering me in the least," said 17-year old Sarah Collins, a high school student from the United States and one of 11 volunteers in Adams's team of clowns.
Adams, 59, and his clowns later visited displaced living in tents near the place where the tsunami swept a train from its tracks, killing over 1,000 people, and played with children.
"When the power of nature destroys, there is no one to blame. You have got to collect the pieces and move on your own, but the world did not forget these people," said Adams.
"Giving and receiving love has become the world's currency after the tsunami," he said.