This is the last letter of Irrfan Khan, one of the stars of Slumdog Millionaire and many other films. I thought it was extraordinary, and have put aside my petty ramblings in order to bring this to you.
Irrfan Khan on battling cancer: I trust, I’ve surrendered, irrespective of the outcome
It’s been quite some time now since I have been diagnosed with a high-grade neuroendocrine cancer. This new name in my vocabulary, I got to know, was rare, and due to fewer study cases, and less information comparatively, the unpredictability of the treatment was more. I was part of a trial-and-error game.
I had been in a different game, I was travelling on a speedy train ride, had dreams, plans, aspirations, goals, was fully engaged in them. And suddenly someone taps on my shoulder and I turn to see. It’s the TC: “Your destination is about to come. Please get down.” I am confused: “No, no. My destination hasn’t come.” “No, this is it. This is how it is sometimes.” The suddenness made me realise how you are just a cork floating in the ocean with UNPREDICTABLE currents! And you are desperately trying to control it.
In this chaos, shocked, afraid and in panic, while on one of the terrifying hospital visits, I blabber to my son, “The only thing I expect from ME is not to face this crisis in this present state. I desperately need my feet. Fear and panic should not overrule me and make me miserable.” That was my INTENTION. AND THEN PAIN HIT. As if all this while, you were just getting to know pain, and now you know his nature and his intensity. Nothing was working; NO consolation, no motivation. The entire cosmos becomes one at that moment – just PAIN, and pain felt more enormous than GOD.
As I was entering the hospital, drained, exhausted, listless, I hardly realised my hospital was on the opposite side of “Lord’s”, the stadium. The Mecca of my childhood dream. Amidst the pain, I saw a poster of a smiling Vivian Richards. Nothing happened, as if that world didn’t ever belong to me. This hospital also had a coma ward right above me. Once, while standing on the balcony of my hospital room, the peculiarity jolted me. Between the game of life and the game of death, there is just a road. On one side, a hospital, on the other, a stadium. As if one isn’t part of anything which might claim certainty – neither the hospital, nor the stadium. That hit me hard hard. I was left with this immense effect of the enormous power and intelligence of the cosmos. The peculiarity of MY hospital’s location – it HIT me. The only thing certain was the uncertainty. All I could do was to realise my strength and play my game better.
This realisation made me submit, surrender and trust, irrespective of the outcome, irrespective of where this takes me, eight months from now, or four months from now, or two years. The concerns took a back seat and started to fade and kind of went out of my mind-space. For the first time, I felt what ‘freedom’ truly means. It felt like an accomplishment. As if I was tasting life for the first time, the magical side of it. My confidence in the intelligence of the cosmos became absolute. I feel as if it has entered every cell of mine.
Time will tell if it stays, but that is how I feel as of now.
Throughout my journey, people have been wishing me well, praying for me, from all over the world. People I know, people I don’t even know. They were praying from different places, different time zones, and I feel all their prayers become ONE. One big force, like a force of current, which got inside me through the end of my spine and has germinated through the crown of my head.
It’s germinating – sometimes a bud, a leaf, a twig, a shoot. I keep relishing and looking at it. Each flower, each twig, each leaf which has come from the cumulative prayers, each fills me with wonder, happiness and curiosity.
A realisation that the cork doesn’t need to control the current. That you are being gently rocked in the cradle of nature.