Emraam Hashmi has been to hell back. In 2014 his only son was diagnosed with cancer.In an interview with Subhash K Jha the actor struggles to express the anguish of a father with an ailing child.
Mr Bachchan has written your son a letter congratulating him for his brave battle against cancer?
Yes, our son Ayan will understand the importance of something like this when he grows older. Of course he watches Mr Bachchan’s films on television. He knows who he is. Ayan was ecstatic about the letter. It was a very kind and sweet gesture.
Emraan , I can’t even begin to understand what you’ve gone through?
Even I am still trying to come to terms with the entire experience. When my son was diagnosed I can’t tell you what I went through. It was much worse than being confronted with my own mortality. We had to stay afloat somehow and fight for our son’s life.
Where did you find the strength to cope?
I look back at the experience and I wonder where I drew all the strength from.I guess this strength is within all of us lying there waiting to be used when urgently needed. When someone so close to you falls ill you have no choice but to be strong. And it was not just for few months. The struggle goes on for years in an illness like this.We are still not out of the danger since the cancer has a chance of recurring for five years.
So the tension continues?
Not as much as before. More than two years have passed. So the doctors say he is out of the red.The first two years after the treatment is very crucial. Chances of recurrence are high. Ayan was undergoing tests every three months. Like I said in the book (The Kiss Of Life: How A Superhero & My Son Defeated Cancer) we actually survived on hope.Chemotherapy doesn’t always work. The chances of children surviving cancer are much higher. They don’t know what the fear of death is.They live in the present. That’s how our son fought his illness.
How has this experience changed you?
Of course it has changed me.Any kind of crisis—death,war, illness—changes you. The wounds are still raw. They will never heal. You just make your peace with what has happened.
Why the book on his illness?
Writing the book on my son’s illness helped me make peace with the crisis. It was therapeutic. After watching a 4-year battle it out with his illness I’ve become stronger. It was the mother of all tragedies.In comparison my day to day problems my work related stress, it all seems so trivial.
Does your career matter less to you now?
Hits and flops seem so transient when I saw all those kids battling their illness when Ayan was in hospital. Children don’t deserve this. With grownups we often badger our bodies, smoke drink and destroy our immunity system. But what do children do to deserve this? This question transformed my outlook towards life.I can’t stress about success and failure any more.
Was it tough to keep working while your son was in hospital?
Work was a painkiller , a numbing agent.For a few minutes in front of the camera I could let go of the pain. For a while I ceased to be father of a seriously ill son.
How could you focus on your work?
I’d be working and thinking of all the problems that were cropping up while my son was being treated. There was even a possibility of a blood transfusion. His hair was falling. And he had pins and needles in his hands and feet and he would be screaming in pain.At the end of the day he’s just a little boy.
How did you control your emotions at a time like this?
I was in India and I’d speak to my wife and son on Skype.But Ayan was stronger than me.
You recently lost your mother?
It’s tragic that when the cancer was taken off my son, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She had a liver cancer. It’s like a death sentence in someone who’s 70. The irony is ,she didn’t die of the cancer. She suffered a stroke