This naval officer quit his job to become a clown and bring smiles to children suffering from cancer

After serving in the Indian Navy for 17 long years, Pravin Tulpule stepped down from his position with the sole purpose of bringing joy to children suffering from cancer.

Armed with colourful clothes, exaggerated footwear, and a red nose, 58-year-old Pravin Tulpule has been going around hospital wards to delight children suffering from cancer for the last 17 years. With a string of jokes and magic tricks, he keeps his audience engaged for as long as 60 minutes in every show.

Pravin gives a terminally ill child a moment of cheer.

Pravin, a President’s Gold Medalist, served in the Indian Navy as a Lieutenant Commander (Communications Specialist) for years, during the course of which he handled various challenging appointments, ranging from being an instructor at the Naval Academy to the Electronic Warfare Officer onboard INS Viraat.

Then, he stepped down from his position with the sole intention of making people happy. Fondly called Pintoo, Pravin is remembered for his clown avatar. 

“When I resigned from my job in the Naval Service, I was ridiculed. A lot of people did not support my decision. But I knew that my life had other objectives. I wanted to follow my instinct. Had I stuck around as Commander for three more years, I would have been eligible to receive pension. But at that point in time, nothing mattered more to me than bringing smiles to people’s faces,” Pravin Tulpule tells SocialStory.

Pravin while he was serving the Indian Navy.

Every year, around 50,000 children (0 to 19 years) in India are diagnosed with cancer, according to the Indian Cancer Society. These children need utmost care and support. Even a small amount of positive energy can make a difference to their lives, and the lives of their family members. And Pravin was keen on doing just that. 

He has put on entertaining shows for some of the most vulnerable children at orphanages, slums, shelter homes, and hospitals across India. 

“People who spend time in these places must be going through very painful experiences. If I am able to make them forget their pain even for a few minutes, I consider myself successful. The amount of satisfaction I derive is inexplicable,” he says.

The turning point  

Pravin’s tryst with magic began when he was 14 years old, on seeing a magic tricks being performed at a show. He started off by practising card tricks and then went on to include props as well. At 15, Pravin performed his first show at home in front of his family, even charging 25 paisa per person. Since then, magic became a part of his life. 

After completing his graduation from Sir Parashurambhau College in Pune, Pravin wanted to become a full-time magician but decided otherwise. 

Pravin putting on a show as a clown for children.

“Back then, nobody saw magic as a full-time profession. Hence, I dropped the idea and continued it as a hobby. That was when my brother-in-law inspired me to serve the country by joining the armed forces. So, I and joined the Navy,” Pravin recalls.

Even during his naval tenure, he was always called upon to entertain his colleagues with magic tricks. 

The year 2000 marked a defining moment in Pravin’s life. At the request of one of his friends, he performed at a show, dressed as a clown for a group of children in Mumbai. However, he was unaware that the members of his audience were suffering from cancer until he reached the venue. 

Pravin after a performance at St Jude Home for Children in Mumbai.

While Pravin was performing, a little boy kept tagging along with him until the end of the show. A few days later, Pravin was surprised to find his photo with the little boy in the newspaper. Pravin's friend later informed him that the boy was no more.

“I was quite depressed, but experienced a sense of relief when I found out that one of the last wishes of that boy was to meet a clown. I was glad I could fulfil it for him. From that day, I made it my life’s mission to clown around and spread happiness among people. I began performing free of cost at hospitals, orphanages, and old-age homes,” Pravin says.

Clowning around to spread smiles 

Most of Pravin’s performances are completely free of cost. He earns his livelihood mainly from commercial assignments like corporate shows and workshops. However, he performs a majority of his acts for NGOs, hospitals, schools, and shelter homes, including Toybank, SafeKids, Access Life Assistance Foundation, BMC schools and anganwadis, Mother Teresa’s Jeevan Jyoti Home, Sri Sai Baba Foundation Children’s Hospital, WADIA Hospital, and TATA group of hospitals.  

His clown magic has proved to be a great source of joy for thousands of people, especially children. Even Pravin’s son and daughter have witnessed some of his shows and love watching his banter. 

Pravin interacting with a few children at one of the schools during an act.

“I tend to derive an immense sense of joy when I meet and greet children. Once I enter the paediatric cancer ward, I try to infuse a sense of positivity by doing some deft magic tricks, cracking jokes, and distributing toys and balloons once in a while. I make it a point to show my face to children in the ICU before leaving the hospital premises,” he says. 

Pravin not only wants to make children laugh but also save their lives. He has kicked off a crowdfunding campaign of Rs 10 lakh on Milaap to fund the treatment of children suffering from cancer. 

“Seeing them smile at a time when they are fighting for their lives is simply priceless. Well, I guess quitting my job was worth it after all,” Pravin says.

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)


Updates from around the world