“Amrita”, called the booming baritone. “ I’m home!”

Amrita dashed into the room and gave her father a tight hug. “Welcome home, Papa!”

The house came alive when Papa was home, she thought. It had always been like that. As long as she could remember.

Mom was very loving and gentle but Amrita loved it when her father was around. They would go out, there would be singing, music and dancing. Her mother was always a little subdued, content to live in the shadow of her extrovert father, Neeraj Goel. He was a rich business tycoon and her mother, Kalpana, a social worker who ran a shelter, Amrita Vihar for abandoned young girls. It was her mother’s pride and joy.

Amrita herself was a budding journalist. Having obtained her post graduate diploma from Asian College of Journalism at Singapore, she’d just hit pay dirt today. She had landed a job as Assistant Editor at Times Today, the leading news channel. She would tell her parents her happy secret at dinner tonight.

Just then her phone rang. It was Aakash – the group leader she’d been assigned to.

“Hey! I need an extra person on a scoop we’re covering today. I know you don’t officially start till coming Monday, but could you join us?” Amrita hesitated then said, “ I would love to come.”

Turning to her father she said “I’m sorry, Pa, I may not make it to dinner tonight. “

“No problem,” said Neeraj, “ I’m having a business meeting tonight. We’ll catch up after getting back, Princess.”

Amrita smiled . He truly made her feel like a princess.

*

9 pm

They were at a rambling farmhouse on the outskirts of Mumbai. As the team moved in, Amrita could hear loud music. They had stumbled on a child trafficking gang, Aakash had explained. They supplied girls to the rich and famous. Today, if they found concrete evidence, a police team was waiting for the final arrests.

As they entered the house through the back door, Amrita felt proud to be part of this group that was doing path breaking, investigative journalism.

They could see into the main hall. A group of men, chatting near the bar. But what struck them was the number of teenage girls around. None more than 14. Glassy vacant stares met the old salacious ones. After clicking a few pics from a vantage point, they moved into bedrooms on the floor above.

As they opened the first door, flashbulbs popping, a man jumped out of the bed. A young girl, no more than 12, ran crying, across the room. The man turned and in the light, she saw a horrifyingly familiar face. “Papa!”Amrita screamed. “ How could you?”

*

Two days later, Kalpana took her own life. The Neeraj and his friends had been abusing were from Amrita Vihar.

“Sorry, Amrita” said the one line letter.” Sometimes there are no happy choices, only one less grievous than others.”

Her mother had made hers.

***

The above story is an entry into #TheChoice a Five00-6 entry.
Check out event guidelines here: https://artoonsinn.com/five00-6/

Check out Aruna’s space here: https://artoonsinn.com/author/aruna-menon/

***

Photo by Ed Leszczynskl

Thanks for reading.

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