While at Naini Tal in June 1972, Shri Nathji stayed at the Hotel Metropole located at the top of a hill overlooking Naini Tal. It was there that he had a sudden attack of herpes zoster, an intensely painful condition, which he divulged only after the attack was over. The doctor who saw Shri Nathji was amazed at the manner in which Shri Nathji had silently borne the pain. He said that the condition was so painful that patients screamed in agony and slept on cold banana skins. The hill people called the condition “agni”, meaning fire. However, Shri Nathji had borne it without a compliant and it was only a suspicion on Priya Nath’s part that had made Shri Nathji reveal he had the pain.
Herpes zoster commonly known as shingles, is a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters in a limited area on one side of the body, often in a stripe. The initial infection with varicella zoster virus (VZV) causes the acute (short-lived) illness chickenpox which generally occurs in children and young people. Once an episode of chickenpox has resolved, the virus is not eliminated from the body but can go on to cause shingles. The virus may break out of nerve cell bodies and travel down nerve axons to cause viral infection of the skin in the region of the nerve. The virus may spread from one or more ganglia along nerves of an affected segment and infect the corresponding dermatome (an area of skin supplied by one spinal nerve) causing a painful rash. Although the rash usually heals within two to four weeks, some sufferers experience residual nerve pain for months or years, a condition called postherpetic neuralgia. Exactly how the virus remains latent in the body, and subsequently re-activates is not understood yet by medical science.