The streets of the old city of Bhopal are pretty crowded, with traffic screeching at your elbows, but that didn’t deter mee Mumbaikar, from striding along the road as if I owned it. I didn’t see the number plate sticking out of a parked scooter, tripped on it, and went for a sprawl. My friend Mazhar who was walking beside me, gingerly picked me up and we both sighed with relief to find I was none the worse for wear.

A little later as I sipped my favourite drink, a diet coke with lots of ice, I reflected on the fall. My mind was drawn to John Donne’s Reflections, and I quote from there:

 ‘Humans have a unique advantage, we stand erect and upright, unlike other creatures who must grovel on the ground. Heaven represents our true home and our very posture inclines us to contemplate that place where our souls will one day rest.’

 ‘How quickly we fall, though! Like Adam lay flat on the ground when God breathed into him the breath of life, and when the time comes to withdraw that breath from us, we prepare by lying flat on our beds. A fever can depose any of us, can bring down a head that wore a crown of gold yesterday to ground level today. The dictator lies as low as the people he trampled on; the judge who signs pardons is too weak to lift his hand to beg his own.’

That’s John Donne, one of England’s most famous poets and his weary words when felled by the bubonic London plague. One day, a rising start and the next bedridden with the dreadful fever, and contemplating death.

But his words should be an eye-opener to all of us who occupy high places, that one day we will fall from that chair we occupy into our graves or even into a hospital bed. Do we want to lie on that bed and regret all our actions when we walked upright? I did that day on the streets of Bhopal. Walked past troubling scooters and mopeds, cars and trucks that quite nearly brushed past me, but it was a small twisted number plate that brought me down. It could be a Covid sneeze from a person walking past you that can bring an end to your lofty stance and disdainful, haughty look to mortals less than you.

Maybe it’s time for us to walk through life, conscious every moment that there will be a fall, and to walk in humility, so that when we are laid onto our beds and from our beds to a hole six feet deep, that those who lay us there will say, “He did not fall, for he walked the earth in humility..!

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