The last letter from Irrfan Khan, originally published in 2018 by Times of India when he had just begun his cancer treatment, has gone viral again, after a Gujarati actor Nischay Rana made a tribute video for him.
For those who missed the letter, here’s what Khan wrote. “It’s been some time since I have been diagnosed with high-grade neuroendocrine cancer. This new name in my vocabulary, I got to know, is rare and due to fewer study cases and less information, the unpredictability of the treatment was more. I was part of a trial-and-error game.
He further adds, “But I had been in a different game. I was travelling on a speedy train, 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!’ The suddenness made me realise how you are just a cork floating in the ocean with unpredictable currents, 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 the 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.”
Khan recalled finding peace during this troublesome time and said the only thing certain is the uncertainty. “As I was entering the hospital, drained, exhausted, listless, I hardly realised my hospital was on the opposite side of Lord’s 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 even 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 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.
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 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.”
This is when Khan, first time, felt what ‘freedom’ truly means. “It was like an accomplishment. My confidence in the intelligence of the cosmos became absolute. Time will tell if it stays, but that is how I feel as of now.”
He also thanked his well-wishers across the world. “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 big force which got inside me through my spine and has germinated on the crown of my head.
I keep looking at it. Each flower, twig, leaf which has come from the cumulative prayers 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.