“Which is worth more, a crowd of thousands,
Or your own genuine solitude?
Freedom, or power over an entire nation?
A little while alone in your room
Will prove more valuable than anything else
That could ever be given to you”
Her life was chaotic to say the least. She had not taken a day off in the last ten years of her working career. The press loved her, her employees respected her and the rest envied her.
The career had been nurtured by sleepless nights, determination and hard work. She followed a strict routine – not out of choice but necessity to succeed in this wild rat race. It was a dog eat dog world out there. She had made sacrifices – love, relationship, hobbies, music, laughter.
Everyday, she came back to her tiny studio apartment. The routine was set. Life was a clock-work. Anything to disrupt the discipline only led to further chaos.
She was independent and had been living on her own for ten years now. She knew she was powerful. She was the CEO and was always surrounded by a crowd of people. She had the ministers and celebrities at her beck and call. After all these years, if she had earned anything – it was power and freedom.
This particular Sunday afternoon she had somehow felt the necessity to smoke a cigarette. She had never smoked since she quit at 20. She was 30 now.
Her lunch appointment was cancelled quite unexpectedly. She fiddled with her phone – the device which was an extension of her self. After a minute she dropped it on the desk. She opened the shelves to look for a cigarette.
“Ah! Found it!”
A cigarette and a lighter were neatly placed in the corner of the shelf – a possible relic from an official meeting held at home or was it an office party? She couldn’t recall. She lit the cigarette and took a deep puff.
The phone was now buzzing, crying for the constant attention it was so used to. The room was dimly lit – not the way she usually kept it. The air smelt of lavender from the room-freshener – artificial.
It wasn’t her routine day.
There she was sitting, leaned against the bed, her head bent backwards, cigarette in hand, eyes closed. The last ten years flashed before her eyes.
At 21, she had left her home driven by the determination to make something out of herself and not settle for anything less. Her ambition had attracted and then driven away many a men – she was not the sort to be tamed. She was always the free-spirited one. “Bossy”, “Ambitious”, “Bitch” – these were the words that were associated with her. Why? Just because she knew what she wanted and was not afraid to break free from traditions and bend a few rules.
She smiled to herself. She was always the rebel. She took another drag.
“When was the last time I heard the song I liked so much”, she thought to herself.
She decided she wanted to listen to that song. What was it? She hummed a tune but couldn’t remember the words.
Her mind wandered off again.
She was 23.
He had loved her very much. She had loved him too. But, she knew he was not the one she wanted to spend her life with. She had to choose between her dreams and love. She had chosen herself and her dreams. “Selfish!” – they called her. She didn’t care. It was her life to live.
She took another drag. The room was getting a little hazy now, with the occasional beam of sunlight sneaking through the curtains.
She was 25 now and relationships or the lack of it was becoming a concern. Parents wanted her to get married. She never really fancied anyone her parents set her up with. She somehow knew that there was a greater calling and felt marriage wasn’t her thing.
After one more heart-break, she turned cold. She never looked that way again. Love wasn’t for her – atleast romantic love wasn’t.
All her friends got married.
She drove herself deeper into work.
At 30 she was one of the youngest CEOs in the country.
She took another drag. She was lost again – time travelling in her head between the past and the future. She was thinking what’s next for her? Did she regret not falling in love? Not marrying? Not having kids? Being so lonely.
Sitting there by the bed, smoking and thinking “What if?”. Funnily, she had never been a “What if?” person.
No. She didn’t have regrets. She was happy.
She smiled again trying to think when was the last time she smiled to herself. She had done everything that she wanted to do or imagined doing in life.
After ten busy years, this sleepy Sunday afternoon she had decided to pause a moment to spend time with herself.
She finished her cigarette, got up and picked up her phone.
“Cancel my meetings for the day. I want to take the rest of the day off.”
She looked at herself in the mirror, smiled again and walked to the hall.
She remembered the song and decided to play it – “What a Wonderful World”.