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You are just a cork floating in the ocean with unpredictable currents: Irrfan Khan on battling cancer

In a rare interview with a daily newspaper, Khan revealed that he has learnt to 'submit, surrender and trust' his life irrespective of the outcome. 

Shriram Iyengar

Since the sudden diagnosis back in March, Irrfan Khan has kept a dignified silence about his illness and the treatment. On Father's Day, the actor chose to speak in a rare interview with The Times of India, a newspaper, about the struggle, pain and fear he experienced after being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumour. 

The actor had to skip the promotional activities of the film, Blackmail (2018) and dropped out of Vishal Bhardwaj's project with Deepika Padukone. Since then, Khan has been away from the limelight, quietly making his way through treatment. 

In the interview, Khan revealed that the suddenness of the diagnosis shocked him. "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," he said. 

Khan added that the rarity of his condition made his situation all the more unpredictable. At one point in the interview, he says, "I was part of a trial-and-error game." 

Neuroendocrine cancer is a condition in which the neuroendocrine cells, that perform functions such as regulating air and blood flow through the lungs and control the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract, develop into tumours.

Despite the dreaded nature of his disease, the actor mentions that he sought to stay on his feet at all times. He remembers talking to his son. "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'." 

But things were not as simple. Pain was one of the biggest obstacles the actor faced. Khan said that there was a point when "nothing was working". The intensity of the pain was enormous, he says, "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." 

The pain left the actor so numbed out to reality that he did not even realise that his hospital was right opposite one of his favourite cricket grounds, Lord's. When he later realised it, it came across as an entirely different world from the perspective he was in. Incidentally, it was this situation that led him to an epiphany. In his own distinct philosophical style, Khan revealed, "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." 

The actor went on to add that he has since decided to "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."

It has not been all doom and gloom for the actor though. He was spotted last month trying to catch a sunny day of cricket between Pakistan and England at the Lord's cricket ground. While he tried to watch it surreptitiously, a hovering fan took his photograph, which then went viral on the internet. Dressed in a pullover, the actor looked lean and bearded. 

Since his diagnosis, Khan has been besieged with wishes from friends within the industry, and from fans all over the world. It is these prayers, the actor revealed, that have felt like "one big force."

While the actor is still undergoing treatment, he expressed a sense of optimism about it. "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," he summed up.