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Writers Corner: Books, Stories & Poems

I'll be there for you | Chapter 6 Pg 3 (6/13) (Page 2)

jassie_17 IF-Rockerz

Joined: 10 March 2005
Posts: 5003

Posted: 24 May 2009 at 11:52pm | IP Logged
Hi....Firstly I totallie loved every word of ur first chapter..I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter. I think this is a perfect length for a long read and I love it. I somehow relate myself to Neelam in terms of me attracting weird situations but i love Deepali and her character....I am looking forward to Zaid-Hina and Rehaan-Samira chemistry...their characters are pretty attractive and fresh...I can relate a lot to Rehaan for I m pretty much of an introvert too....Keep up da excellent work!!!

*Nishi* IF-Sizzlerz

Joined: 26 January 2008
Posts: 14008

Posted: 25 May 2009 at 8:22am | IP Logged
yeah keep it up
cant wait to read mroe
SuhanaSafar IF-Rockerz

Joined: 09 December 2006
Posts: 5226

Posted: 25 May 2009 at 9:04am | IP Logged

Wow, all of a sudden I have three readers here!  Wasn't expecting that.  Anyway, thank you so much Apsara, Jassie and Nishi for your wonderful comments.  I'll add all three of you to my PM list.  I've been posting this story in the FF section and MJHT section, and I completed Chapter 5 last week.  I will copy over Chapters 2-5 over right now...I'll give you a whole lot to read at once. Big smile  Hope you like them! 

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SuhanaSafar IF-Rockerz

Joined: 09 December 2006
Posts: 5226

Posted: 25 May 2009 at 9:05am | IP Logged
Okay, I have to be completely honest with you guys.  This chapter is not the most exciting.  The plot still hasn't developed much, but there is more interaction between characters.  I feel like I need to build the characters and their relationships up first, and then I'll be able to include interesting events.  Anyway, don't worry guys....something huge is about to happen in Chapter 3!  Wink
Btw, MUCH shorter than the first one!
Chapter 2: Harmony and Discord

There were twenty minutes to go before class would start.  Samira (Amrita Rao) was seated in the front row of the classroom with her planner open in front of her.  One male student, the only other person there, was silently skimming through a textbook in the back of the room.
It was Tuesday afternoon, and Samira's second day as a university student.  After three intense science lectures and one grueling lab over the past day and a half, she was eager for something a bit lighter.  The course that was about to begin was offered by the South Asia Studies department and entitled "The Indian American Identity."  It had been recommended to Aditya by a friend, and he had convinced both Zaid and Samira to take it with him.  If nothing else, Samira was content with the opportunity to spend time with her two most favorite guys.
As she lifted her pen after writing "Study Chemistry 5-6 PM" in her planner, Samira heard a familiar voice in the hallway outside the door.  Near the doorway stood two figures, both dressed in baggy cargo shorts and t-shirts, carrying identical skateboards.  Recognizing them as her roommate Carissa Green (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and Carissa's boyfriend Gavin Martin (Zac Efron), Samira smiled.  She watched as Gavin brushed Carissa's hair away from her face and tenderly kissed her.  Then Carissa walked inside the classroom, and Gavin left to find his own class.
"Aren't you two adorable?" Samira commented as Carissa took the seat to her right, sliding her skateboard under the chair.  "Is Gavin's next class in this building?"
Carissa shook her head.  "It's in Williams Hall."
"So let me get this straight.  He walked all the way across campus to drop you off at your class, and now he's heading back towards the dorms for his next class?  Talk about inefficiency."
"Just wait until you fall in love, Samira," Carissa replied, rather dreamily.  "It won't seem so outrageous."
Samira giggled back.  "Maybe I'm just not cut out for romance.  But hey, I never got a chance to ask you about last night.  Did he like his birthday present?"
Carissa grinned and began to tell Samira about her dinner date with Gavin the preceding evening. 
Samira and Carissa were so comfortable in their interaction with one another that it was hard to believe they had met only four days ago.  In many ways, they were polar opposites, and each an enigma in herself.  Samira was outwardly very feminine and almost fragile in appearance, yet a two minute conversation with her would convince anyone that she was a lot tougher than she appeared, her practicality and righteousness serving as her source of strength.  In contrast, Carissa exhibited the facade of a carefree tomboy, yet she had an exceptionally gentle temperament and was drawn to all things romantic and idealistic.
As she finished filling Samira in on the details of her date, Carissa's eyes happen to fall on the lone student sitting in the back.
"Hi Karan," she called out to him.
Karan(Arjun Bijlani, Mayank) looked up from his book and gave her a half smile.  After a simple "hi", he returned to his reading.  Samira gave Carissa a curious look.
"He went to my high school," Carissa explained.  "One year ahead of us."  She leaned in to whisper in Samira's ear.  "He's always been a bit of a loner.  The word around school was that he thinks he's too smart for friends."
Samira nodded, pondering over this for a moment.  Then she changed the subject, asking Carissa about her classes.  It wasn't that she doubted Carissa's description, but Samira preferred to make her own judgments about her classmates.
As the girls chatted, Zaid (Ranbir Kapoor) was making his way down the hallway toward the classroom.  Turning a corner, he almost ran into Aditya (Mohit Sehgal, Samrat) who had stopped in the hall to tie his shoe.
"Oh, hey Adi," Zaid greeted him as Aditya rose from his kneeling position.
"Zaid?!" Aditya responded in exaggerated surprise.  "Here already?  Teri tabiyat to theek hai?"  He pretended to feel Zaid's forehead for signs of a fever.
Zaid rolled his eyes.  "Adi."
"You're fifteen minutes early, dude.  What happened to walking in just as lecture begins?"
"You forget that Her Highness, the Queen of Punctuality will be there.  I can't risk the possibility of being late to this class."
"Ah, the five foot-tall younger sister.  What a frightening image."  Aditya sniggered at the thought.
"Tu nahin samjhega.  Samira has a way of making me feel guilty for even the tiniest transgressions.  Trust me.  You don't want to be at the receiving end of one of her guilt trips."
Laughing, Aditya opened the door to the classroom, and they spotted Samira in the front row.  Before they had even set foot in the room, Samira was staring reproachfully at Zaid, her arms crossed in front of her. 
"What did you do now?" Aditya asked Zaid in an undertone as they stayed rooted in the doorway.
"No idea," Zaid whispered back.  "Maybe I should drop this class.  Here I thought taking a class with my sister might be fun."
The two of them hesistantly approached the desks.  Zaid sat down directly behind his sister and Aditya took the seat to his right, behind Carissa.
"Kya baat hai, Samira?" Zaid asked cautiously.
"Bhaiya, what did you do with your cell phone?  Maryam's been trying to reach you since last night.  Na to aap phone utha rahe hain, aur na usko waapis call kar rahe hain.  She just called me an hour ago worried that something might have happened to you."  Maryam was Zaid and Samira's younger sister, a third year high school student still living with their parents in California. 
"Oh no.  I think I forgot it in my car last night.  Was it something urgent?"
"No," Samira disclosed, "but it easily could have been.  How exactly can you go a full day without checking your phone?  Itni laparvaayi kyoon, Bhaiya?"
"Achcha baba, I'm sorry.  Now tell me, what was Maryam calling about?"
Samira gave in and smiled.  "She thought you might be happy to know that she's following in your footsteps.  The coach just selected her as the captain of the basketball team." 
"Wow, that's awesome!" Zaid responded enthusiastically.  "Let me borrow your phone, so I can send her a text."
Samira handed over her phone, and Zaid began typing his message.
"Tell her I said congrats as well," Aditya told him.  Aditya had fond memories of playing basketball with Zaid and Maryam during his spring in California and remembered finding Maryam's abilities to be remarkable.
"Oh Adi, I completely forgot," Samira began.  "This is my roommate, Carissa.  One of her classes was cancelled last minute, so I suggested this one to her.  Carissa, this is my brother's roommate Aditya."
"Nice to meet you Aditya," Carissa said.
"The pleasure is all mine," Aditya replied, shaking her hand.  "I've been told that the first year girls this year are exceptionally beautiful.  I'm really starting to believe the rumor now."
"Adi!" Samira hissed.  "She already has a boyfriend."
Aditya grinned.  "Well, he's a very lucky guy.  I'm sure neither of them would be offended by my innocent compliment.  Beauty is meant to be admired and praised."
Carissa smiled approvingly.  Just then, the classroom door opened once again.  'Speaking of beauty,' Aditya mused as he recognized the slender form and apprehensive expression of the girl in the doorway.  Catching Aditya's eye, Neelam (Sanaya Irani, Gunjan) coyly entered the room and walked toward the desks.  Sitting down next to him, she gave him a smile.
"Hi Aditya," she greeted him softly.
"Neelam, right?" Aditya asked.  After an affirmative nod from her, he continued.  "What a pleasant surprise.  I don't think I've ever seen you on campus before.  You must be a first year."
Neelam nodded again.  "I...was hoping I would run into you," she told him.  "I'm sorry about being so rude the other day."
"Don't apologize," he replied.  "I could tell that the incident with Mitchell had flustered you.  Why don't we try a second introduction?  Aditya Basu, second year Political Science major, from Houston, Texas."  He held out his hand. 
Neelam grinned, taking his hand.  "Neelam Mehta, first year Physics major, born and raised here in Philadelphia."
"Physics major, huh?  Now I understand the laboratory badge you were wearing the other day."
Neelam smiled, surprised that he still remembered.  "I wanted some practical experience during the summer, so my father found me a position.  He's a Physics department faculty member here.
"Ah, so science runs in the family."
"I suppose so.  Why did you choose Poli Sci?"
Aditya explained to Neelam the passion for politics and debate that he developed during his high school U.S. Government class.  Since then, he harbored a strong desire to be a part of the political system and play a role in the progress of the nation.
While Aditya and Neelam discussed their futures and Carissa explained to Zaid the elementary basics of skateboarding, Samira watched the classroom gradually fill with students.  A majority of them were South Asian, with Carissa and two others being the exceptions.  Despite the common background of most of the students, Samira immediately noted some obvious disparities.  Approximately half of them appeared to have grown up in the United States, speaking to each other in flawless English with no accent.  The rest were conversing in either Hindi or accented English.  It troubled Samira to see that these two communities had formed separate groups.  Why did this segregation exist?  Was it really true that FOBs and ABCDs couldn't mix?  She knew that it wasn't.  Aditya had grown up in India and Zaid was born in the US, yet they were unseparable.  However, their case seemed to be an exception rather than the rule.
"May I take this seat?"
Pulled out of her contemplation, Samira glanced up at the guy standing to her left.  "Rehaan!" she beamed at him.  "I didn't know you were in this class."
Rehaan (Shahid Kapoor) dropped down into the seat next to her.  "I wasn't expecting to find you here either.  How have first two days been for you?"
"Interesting, but exhausting.  You?"
"Pretty much the same.  I'm really looking forward to checking out the city this weekend.  Are you still up for it?"
"Then I should give you my new cell number.  I changed it over the weekend."
"Oh?"  Samira raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, I was getting a lot of prank calls."  He regretted being dishonest with Samira, but dwelling on the true reason for his phone number change was the last thing he wanted to do at the moment.  This first week of college was a time to move on with his life.  He wasn't about to let the memories of Zeenat's deception get in his way.
As Samira entered Rehaan's new number in her phone, an excited shriek caused everyone in the room to turn toward a girl who had just entered the room.
"Neelam!  I have so much to tell you."  A girl in a vivid magenta dress and black leggings was standing near the door.  She suddenly noticed that all eyes in the room were on her.  "Oh, sorry," she apologized nonchalantly and rushed over to Neelam, taking the seat just in front of her.
Neelam stifled a giggle.  "What happened, Deepali?"
Deepali(Rati Pandey, Nupur) excitedly told Neelam all about the art class she had just come from.  Apparently, it had been one of the best classes of her life.  Not only were all her classmates talented artists, but the instructor was also world-renowned and an inspiring role model. 
Aditya watched the interaction of the two girls with fascination.  He wasn't offended at being interrupted by Deepali's entrance.  Instead, he was amused by her carefree attitude and excessive enthusiasm.  He figured that this must be the twin sister that Neelam had just been mentioning, but it was a wonder that a set of twins could be so different.
Two minutes before the beginning of class, the entrance of another student caused a stir in the classroom.  Hina(Deepika Padukone) strolled in as confident as ever, her dark curls flowing loosely behind her.  Her outfit was top-of-the-line trendy and perfectly tailored for her figure.  She captured the guys' attention instantaneously, but even the girls were compelled to stop what they were doing and appreciate the image of beauty before them. 
Neelam and Deepali greeted her warmly as she approached them.
"How was your pharmaceutical conference?" Neelam asked.
"Wonderful," Hina answered, "but I wished I hadn't missed yesterday's classes.  I heard that your father's lecture was excellent."
"Of course it was," Deepali piped.  "There's a reason his course is so popular."
"True," Hina laughed.  She noticed the instructor, a middle-aged South Asian female, enter the room.  "Class is about to begin.  I better find a seat."
She spotted the closest open seat next to Zaid and claimed it immediately.  As she sat down, she flashed Zaid a smile.  He smiled back with a perceptible tenseness in his expression.
Unfortunately for Zaid, this exchange had not gone unnoticed by Aditya or Samira.  Samira peered at her brother with curiosity wondering if she was interpreting the situation accurately.  Aditya gave her a knowing smile and a wink, and then she knew that she wasn't the only one with the thought.
"Please take your seats everyone.  We will be beginning shortly."  The instructor's tone was mellow and amiable, and her accent suggested a South Indian background.  After a minute, she walked to the board and printed her name neatly in the top left corner - Leah D'Souza.
"My name is Leah D'Souza, and I would prefer you to call me Leah.  No formalities necessary in this classroom.  I was born and raised in Kerela, a state at the southern tip of India, but my family migrated to New York while I was in high school.  After completing my undergraduate education at NYU in South Asian Studies, I had the opportunity to pursue a PhD here at UPenn.  I chose to write my thesis on the themes reflected in the writings of Indian diaspora authors.  I completed my degree three years ago and then began teaching introductory South Asian studies courses under the guidance of senior professors.  This year, I finally have the honor of teaching this brand new course and designing it to be unique and novel.  I would like this to be an interactive experience in which you learn not only from me, but also from your peers.  And ultimimately, I hope to learn a lot from you as well."
Leah paused for effect and glanced around the room to see if she had everyone's attention.  "There will be no exams in this course," she continued.  "One-third of your grade will depend on three essays that will be assigned over the course of the semester.  The rest will come from group activities.  I will divide the class into groups of four or five.  You will be required to meet once every two week at a location of your choice, and have an hour long conversation about a topic that I assign.  The conversations will be recorded onto an audio cassette or CD which will be handed in to me.  Each of you will also write a page long summary of the opinions and arguments that were presented during the conversation and turn those in.  Finally, one person from each group will be selected as the spokesperson.  This person will present two of the most interesting opinions from their group in front of the class.  Any questions so far?"
The class remained silent.  "Okay, so I will divide you into groups now.  Since this is the first day of class, I will let you out about fifteen minutes early.  Until then, I expect you to get to know the members of your group and come up with a general schedule for your meetings.  All due dates are printed in your syllabus."
She walked towards the first row of seats and made a gesture towards the four students sitting in the row.  "You four will be Group 1."  She moved on to the second row and christened them Group 2.  The first group consisted of Rehaan, Samira, Carissa and Deepali, while the second one included Hina, Zaid, Aditya and Neelam.  As Leah continued to assign groups, Samira glanced down her row.  Deepali was the only person she didn't know.  That could be remedied promptly.
After much bicker and the screeching of moving desks, the groups finally arranged themselves into circles so they could break the ice.  Group 2 got through their introductions quite smoothly and seemed to become comfortable with each other immediately.  Since each person was familiar with two of the three other members of the group, no one felt like an outsider.
Unfortunately this didn't apply for Deepali.  Even after everyone in Group 1 had introduced themselves, she still felt a bit uncomfortable.  Samira seemed to know Rehaan and Carissa very well, and the two of them were looking to her to take initiative.  Samira had taken out a pack of colored pens and was already writing down notes.  Amidst all this, Deepali immediately felt neglected.  In addition, Rehaan kept throwing reflective glances at her, as if he were trying to figure her out.  He did the same to Carissa a few times, but Deepali was pretty sure she was his main target.  This made her even more uncomfortable.  Why couldn't he just say what was on his mind?
"So, it seems like our audio recordings and write-ups are due every other Tuesday," Samira informed her group, glancing at the syllabus.  "When should we meet?"
"Leaving it for the last weekend would be risky," advised Carissa.
"How about the first weekend then?" Deepali suggested, eager to make her presence felt.  "Sunday sometime?"
Carissa shook her head.  "I don't think weekends would work.  People might be going out of town."
"I'll sure you all can make it back to Philly by Sunday evening to work on a project."
"That's easy to say for someone who lives here," Rehaan commented.  "The rest of us have to go out of town to see our families.  Carissa's right.  We should do it on a weekday."
"Yeah, I agree," Samira assented.  "So which day?  I think Monday would be good.  Best to get things out of the way early in the week."
Deepali only heard the word 'Monday' since she was fuming over Rehaan's comment.  He made it sound like she was being self-centered to suggest the weekend in the first place when that had not been her intention at all.  But to avoid conflict, Deepali decided to let it go.  They all agreed on Monday as the best day to meet, and Samira noted it in her planner.
The instructor walked through the class once more, in order to assign spokespersons for each group.  She chose Rehaan from Group 1 and Neelam from Group 2.  Neelam's heart raced and her face blanched, but she remained quiet.  Speaking in front of a class was her worst nightmare.
Aditya leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Is everything okay?"
Neelam nodded but felt her face burning.  How was she going to do this?  She didn't want to let her group down or have Aditya consider her a socially inept person.  Yet, just the thought of having the eyes of forty students on her was making her sweat.
The other group was still working out logistics.  "Where should we meet?" Samira asked.
Once again, Deepali came up with the first suggestion.  "How about outdoors at a cafe or in a park?"
"Hmm..." Carissa pondered.  "It might be too loud.  Shouldn't we be in a quiet place so our recording will be clear."
"Yes, definitely," Rehaan concurred.  "I'm with Carissa.  It's gotta be indoors."
It took all of Deepali's willpower not to crack her pencil in her hand.  What was Rehaan playing at? Why was he trying to make her feel bad? 
"Fine," Deepali stated, sternly.  "Why don't you guys make all the decisions, and just tell me when you're done?"
Samira's face fell.  "Deepali, don't be upset.  We're all in this together.  We're trying to come up with a plan that works for all of us."
Deepali sighed.  "Okay, let me just make one more suggestion.  I know you all live in dorms.  My family has a pretty decent sized house with a nice, comfortable family room.  It's only a few blocks away from campus.  Why don't we meet there?"
Samira smiled.  "Sounds good to me."
To Deepali's surprise, the other two agreed as well.
Group 2 was having a conflict over how the meetings would be conducted.  Hina suggested that each person should be given ten minutes to make their statements, then they could spend the rest of the time discussing the opinions.  Aditya flatly refused.
"It's supposed to be a casual conversation," he argued.  "It says so here in the syllabus."
Hina heaved a sigh.  "But she also said that everyone has to give their opinions.  What if one person doesn't get a chance to express themselves during the 'casual conversation?'  Then we'll have to go back in the end and make sure they get their share of the time.  It could end up taking a lot longer than an hour."
"So what?  At least it'll be complete."
"I have more important classes than this.  This isn't even a requirement.  I don't have time to meet for hours at a time for an elective course."
"Then why don't you drop the class?"  Aditya was highly irked by Hina's selfishness.  Zaid's crush or not, she was definitely not someone he wanted to work with.
"Come on guys," Zaid attemped to mediate.  "Let's not argue over this.  We'll try making it a conversation, and if that doesn't work well, we'll ask Leah if there's a better way.  Does that sound okay?"
Hina and Aditya reluctantly nodded.
With five minutes remaining, Groups 1 and 2 finally sorted out all their differences and came up with structured plans as to how to go about the group activities.  As the rest of her group sat back and relaxed, Samira began to clean up her desk.
"I'll make copies of my notes and give them to you guys on Thursday," she told them as she returned her colored pens to their package.
Abruptly Samira's expression changed to one of panic as she stared at her pens.  "Oh no, that's not right."  She quickly removed two pens from the package and exchanged their positions.  After glancing over them once more, she finally appeared relieved and returned them to her backpack.
Looking up, she found Rehaan watching her interestedly.  "I like things in their place," she explained.  Rehaan gave her a curious look, but remained quiet.
When the class finally ended, they all felt drained from the planning and arguments.  If the first day was so difficult, how would the rest of the semester go?  One thing was clear.  The personality clashes within the two groups would require a lot of effort and compromise to work through.

1. Just give me your general impression of the chapter.

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*Nishi* IF-Sizzlerz

Joined: 26 January 2008
Posts: 14008

Posted: 25 May 2009 at 9:05am | IP Logged
no problem Big smile we're always here
SuhanaSafar IF-Rockerz

Joined: 09 December 2006
Posts: 5226

Posted: 25 May 2009 at 9:06am | IP Logged
I'll continue with the actor names in parentheses for a while longer.  Let me know when you don't need it anymore.  I've also added a recap...hope it helps.

The seven main characters meet in their "Indian American Identity" class, in which they are required to work in groups.  Things do not start off on the right foot, as personality clashes emerge early between Aditya and Hina as well as Rehaan and Deepali.

Chapter 3: Power to Choose
"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country," Aditya (Mohit Sehgal, Samrat) uttered aloud, as he typed the famous line from John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address onto his laptop keyboard.  Nearly four years ago, Aditya had read this quote for the very first time, and it had been nothing short of a revelation.  The message was simple yet profound - a call to serve, to take action, to shape the future of the nation.  And for Aditya, the quote was much more significant.  It was the inspiration he had needed in order to chose the path of leadership - to realize his potential as a born leader.
Leaning back into his recliner, Aditya reread the first two paragraphs of his Political Science essay, looking for errors.  Just as he finished, the front door of the apartment swung open and Zaid (Ranbir Kapoor) ambled in, appearing completely exhausted.  Mumbling a weary greeting, he made his way to the sofa and collapsed onto it, dropping his backpack onto the floor.
"Hey, how was your lab class, Zee?" Aditya asked.  "Blow anything up?"
Zaid rolled his eyes.  "It's not a chemistry lab, dude.  It's an engineering lab.  We built this complex circuit with switches, bulbs and fans.  It might have actually been interesting, but our battery was defective.  I spend over an hour trying to debug the circuit, only to realize there was absolutely nothing wrong the wiring."
"Ouch," Aditya sympathized.  "Thank God I never liked science."
"Lucky you."  Zaid put his face in his hands and rubbed his eyes.  "I could really use a nap." 
"You can't sleep now.  It's Monday.  Aaj to Chashmish ke ghar jaana hai."
"Chashmish?" Zaid asked, perplexedly.
Aditya sighed.  "You're such an American sometimes.  Chashmish matlab chashma pehnne waali."
"Oh, Neelam.  Haan, mujhe yaad hai."
"Yaad kaise nahin hoga, considering who else is going to be there?"
Zaid glared back.  He was finally comfortable with the fact that Aditya knew about his feelings for Hina, and was no longer embarassed by every allusion to her.  "Are you still going on about that?  I was thinking it would taper off since you don't like her."
"How I feel about her is irrelevant," Aditya replied with a smirk.  "You know I'd never pass up an opportunity to pull your leg."
Zaid shook his head.  "Whatever."
"You and Samira say 'whatever' a lot.  Must be a California thing."
"Actually, it's a 'how to get Adi to shut up' thing."  Zaid pulled himself up and headed towards his bedroom.  "Mujhe aadhe ghante mein jaga dena."
Grinning, Aditya returned to his paper.
As he walked out of his classroom, Rehaan (Shahid Kapoor) checked his phone for missed calls.  There were none.  So far so good.  Zeenat had not acquired his new number yet, and even her emails were less frequent than before.  Maybe she had finally given up on him, Rehaan thought, crossing his fingers.
It was hard to believe that only two months ago Rehaan had felt so secure about his love for Zeenat that he was considering proposing to her.  But that was before the unthinkable happened.  Without rhyme or reason, Zeenat made an accusation that left him shocked and outraged.  And he realized once and for all that the relationship had to come to an end.  He knew that it wouldn't be easy to get over what happened, but the opportunity to move over 1000 miles away for college could not have come at a better time.  Time and distance would heal his broken heart.
When Rehaan reached the end of the hall, he watched as students gradually trickled out of a large lecture hall.  After a moment of hesitation, Rehaan decided to stop at the door of the hall and wait there, leaning his shoulder against a nearby column. 
Moments later, Samira (Amrita Rao) appeared in the doorway.  Spotting Rehaan, she grinned broadly.  "Waiting for me?" she asked.
Rehaan returned the smile.  "I didn't want to walk alone, and I thought you might feel the same way."
Samira giggled as she recognized that statement as one that she had said to him at the airport over a week ago.  "Should we head over to Deepali's place now?  It's still a little early."
"Well, if you don't mind, Mark's Cafe is just around the corner.  May I buy you a coffee or something?"
"Rehaan, you don't have to-"
"I wanted to pay for your lunch on Saturday," Rehaan interrupted, "but you didn't let me.  I won't take no for an answer this time." 
On Saturday, two days earlier, Rehaan and Samira had spent several hours together, taking a limited tour of some of Philadelphia's most visited tourist spots.  During this time, they also had the opportunity to chat about their high school experiences, interests and future goals.  For Samira, the more they conversed, the more charismatic she found Rehaan to be.  He was interested in everything she had to say and always found the right words to respond, though at times she felt like he was a bit reserved when it came to speaking about himself.  It appeared as if he wasn't quite ready to open up with her about certain spheres of his life.
Samira smiled as she gave in to Rehaan's offer.  "Well, I don't drink coffee, but I would love a smoothie."
Rehaan tilted his head, gesturing towards the cafe, and together they headed across campus along the stone pathways. 
"Deeps, tum kahaan ho?" Neelam (Sanaya Irani, Gunjan) inquired with concern over the phone.  "Everyone will be here in less than half an hour."
"Sorry Neelam," Deepali (Rati Pandey, Nupur) replied.  "I swear, this campus is the most confusing place in the world.  I was on my way home and out of the blue, I found myself in a quad that I've never seen before in my life.  I've been looking around, and I don't recognize any of these halls.  I don't know what to do.  This is what I get for never taking the time to walk around campus despite living here for so many years."  Deepali said this all in such rapid succession that she had to take a deep breath once she had completed her story.
Neelam sighed, shaking her head.  "Okay, don't panic.  Just tell me the name of some of the halls.  I might know where you are."
"Wait...I think I found a better solution."  Deepali had just walked into one of the buildings and caught sight of someone familiar studying on one of the benches in the corridor.  "There's someone here I know, so I'll just ask him.  I'll be home soon.  Bye."
As she ended the call, Deepali approached the young man (Arjun Bijlani, Mayank) who was still engrossed in his textbook.  He was dressed in a plaid collared shirt and dark jeans, and his hair was gelled into neat spikes.  When she cleared her throat loudly, he finally looked up.
"Hi," she said.  "I've seen you in my 'Indian American Identity' class.  I'm Deepali."
His expression remained passive as he nodded.
"And your name is?" she questioned.
"Karan," he replied inertly, his eyes shifting back to his textbook.  He appeared in no mood to talk, but Deepali ignored his expression and dropped down on the bench beside him.
"You look like you're good with directions, Karan," she began, speaking rapidly once again.  "I thought I knew my way home from classes, but I swear, this campus is a maze.  I live near the law school, but I'm guessing I'm not even close to there.  I don't even recognize a single building around here.  If I don't get back soon, my project group is going to hate me.  Well, that is, if they don't already.  Will you help me?"
Karan wondered how she could speak so fast without exhausting all her energy.  "This is the Wharton School of Business," he responded.  "The Law School is at the opposite corner of the University.  Just walk north and east."  Then he picked up his textbook again and continued where he had left off, hoping not to be disturbed again.
Deepali slowly rose from her seat, trying to process Karan's directions.  "The sun is setting in this direction," she said out loud, motioning toward the entrance she had come from.  "That must be west, which means that north is-"
"Do you mind?" Karan interjected, staring at her with a frown.  "Some of us actually come to school to study."
"Then you should study in the library.  The hallways are not your property, you know?"  Deepali was finally getting aggravated by his rudeness.  "And who the hell remembers which way is northeast?  Is it too much trouble for you to point out exactly where I should go?"
"Okay fine," he conceded irately.  He pointed in the distance out of a nearby window.  "Just keep walking that way.  You can't miss it."
"Thank you," Deepali replied, her voice still edgy.  Then she readily dashed out the building door.
Karan heaved a sigh.  As if it wasn't annoying enough just sharing a class with this girl, now she actually knew him by name.
Half an hour later, Aditya, Zaid, Samira, Rehaan and Hina (Deepika Padukone) were seated in Neelam and Deepali's family room, while Neelam was getting refreshments for them in the kitchen and Deepali was moving her stereo system in from the living room. 
"Are we waiting for anyone else?" Hina asked, impatiently.  Deepali's idea to combine the two groups was already going to extend this meeting, and Hina didn't want it to start late as well.  Upon Deepali's email request, the class instructor, Leah, had allowed the two groups to have their discussion together, but the write-ups and presentations would have to be done separately.  She required that they hold the discussion for an extra half hour since there would be more participants.  Everyone else has responded favorably to this, so Hina also reluctantly agreed.
"Carissa's class should have ended a few minutes ago," Samira explained.  "I'm sure she'll be here soon."
Deepali entered the room with the sophisticated stereo system on a pushcart.  "Hina, just take this opportunity to chill for a bit.  I'm sure sitting around chatting with classmates in a comfortable sitting room cannot be your worst nightmare."
Hina managed a small smile and loosened up a bit as they all began discussing the best places to eat near the university.  Just as Carissa (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) arrived, Neelam brought out some sodas, a bowl of chips and a plate of delicious steaming samosas.
As they all helped themselves to the food, Deepali informed everyone about her sister's culinary talents.  "You now what guys...Neelam makes these samosas from scratch.  Aren't they the best you've ever eaten?" 
Everyone agreed and began to praise Neelam, which both pleased and embarassed her.
"So, shall we begin?" Aditya asked, once they were done eating.  "The prompt says: 'Discuss the role of culture and parental expectations when an Indian American college student selects his or her major.  Have these factors influenced your decision?'"
"This should be interesting," Zaid commented with a grin.
"Great," Deepali said, "then why don't you start us off, Zaid.  I'll start the recording, and you can tell us why you chose your major."  She hit the record button the stereo.
"Uh..."  Zaid wondered how to begin.  He wasn't expecting to be the first to speak.  Hina gave him an encouraging smile, which only made him more nervous.  "Well, I chose engineering," he began, "which doesn't really run in the family.  My father's side are mostly doctors and my mother's side are in academics.  But I guess there was some cultural pressure to chose a professional career.  I mean, I don't think my parents would have been thrilled if I would have majored in Theater or Ethnic Studies."
"True," Hina agreed.  "Desi parents are only satisfied if their kids become doctors or engineers.  I suppose they must view these as the most stable careers."
Carissa had her doubts.  "Maybe they just want their children to follow in their footsteps.  Zaid, your dad's a doctor, right?  Did you ever get the feeling that he wanted you to go into medicine, too?"
Zaid contemplated for a moment and exchanged glances with Samira, seeming unsure about how to approach the subject.  "Well, I don't know.  Maybe early on he did have some desire for me to choose medicine...but I think he just hoped that at least one of his three children would choose his field.  Now that Samira is majoring in Biology, I'm pretty sure he's content."  He paused for a moment, appearing uneasy with the current discussion.  "Can someone else talk now?"
"Here, I'll go," Deepali said.  "I don't think we should be generalizing about Desi parents.  Not all of them are the same.  I'm double majoring in English and Art, and my parents don't have a problem with it.  They said I should stick with whatever makes me happy."
"Your parents might be an exception, Deepali," Hina stated, "but you can't really know what they're thinking.  Maybe they would have been happier if you have chosen a science instead."
Deepali frowned pensively.  "Maybe."
Rehaan was silently watching the play of emotions on Zaid and Deepali's faces as they were put on the spot.  He dreaded having to face the same question because he was very uncomfortable with the subject.  Rehaan had not yet selected a major because he had not been able to find a middle ground between his own inclinations and his mother's hopes for him.  This was not something he wanted to share with anyone before he figured it out for himself, especially not a group of people he had met only a week ago.
Fortunately, no one was required to share anything about themselves for the next ten mintutes, because the group launched into a discussion about which majors at their University had the most Desi students.  They came to the conclusion the greatest proportions of Desis entered college in either the Pre-Medicine or the Engineering program, with Pre-Law and Business coming in as distant number three and number four.
"Okay, lets get back to discussing each person's major," Hina instructed, "or else we'll never finish by eight."
Aditya glared at her.  "So what if we don't?  No one else is complaining."
"I just think it will benefit us all if we end on time, so we can get to our other school work."
"No, Hina.  I think you're just thinking about yourself as usual.  We all have busy lives, but you're the only one who is selfish enough to constantly try to hurry us along."
Rehaan stood up abruptly and stopped the recording stereo.  "What is it with you two?" he said, angrily.  "We have enough issues as it is without you being at each other's throats."
"What issues are you talking about, Rehaan?" Deepali asked.  "Why don't you come out and say it?  I already know that you don't like me from the way you looked at me and responded to my suggestions in class on Tuesday."
Rehaan sighed.  "I have no idea what you're taking about, Deepali, and this has nothing to do with you.  You want to know what the issues are?  Well, first of all, none of us has any idea how to conduct this discussion session, so we're all confused about whether we're even doing it right.  Secondly, Neelam and I have been selected as the spokespersons for the presentations despite the fact that we're the least talkative.  Neelam doesn't seem happy with the arrangement, and honestly, neither am I.  And finally, we're expected to discuss very personal matters with a group of people that we barely know.  Not all of us are comfortable enough to do this."
They all stayed quiet for a moment as they pondered over Rehaan's words.  He was absolutely right, of course, having discerned some of the subtle emotions and dynamics that the rest of them had missed.
Finally Carissa spoke up.  "I think we all need a break and some fresh air.  Let's take a walk outside for a bit."
"There's an ice cream shop down the street," Neelam suggested.
"Perfect.  Let's go."
They all consented, and headed outside into the cool evening air.  There was very little traffic on the street, and the neighborhood was quiet.  The setting sun was just visible on the horizon, and the sky was painted with pink and orange hues.  It was the perfect setting to brighten everyone's spirits.
As they walked toward the ice cream store, Rehaan approached Samira with a concern.
"You know, Samira," he whispered, "I think Deepali has a valid reason for thinking I don't like her."
"So, you do have a problem with her?" Samira asked, surprised at his statement.
Rehaan shook his head.  "No, but I understand why she thinks I do.  I was thinking about everything that happened on Tuesday, and I did reject some of her suggestions a bit insensitively.  Actually, I was distracted.  Just before we were divided into groups, Carissa had confided in me that she was worried about whether or not she would be able to contribute anything to the project since she wasn't from an Indian background herself.  I sensed that she was anxious about the class, so I thought that if I supported her suggestions, it might make her feel more comfortable.  Of course, I didn't realize that Deepali was probably feeling even more like an outsider than Carissa at the time."
"It's all right, Rehaan," Samira replied.  "It was an honest mistake.  You should explain all this to Deepali.  I'm sure she'll understand."
"I think I will.  Thanks Samira."
They were halfway to the ice cream store, when a gust of wind came through, blowing away the five-dollar bill that Carissa had just taken out of her purse.  It hovered in the air for a couple seconds and then fell onto the street.
Carissa looked on both sides for oncoming traffic.  "I'll be right back," she told everyone.
She crossed one lane and walked over to where the bill was.  Just as she bent down to retrieve it, the screeching of tires was heard.  Everyone looked over to see that a pickup truck had just turned the corner and was barrelling toward Carissa at a speed clearly higher than the limit on that road.
The moment they saw the truck, they all knew it was too late.  There was absolutely nothing anyone could do to prevent the impact.  All they could do was watch wide-eyed as Carissa was struck by the right side of the bumper and thrown several feet into the air before landing on the sidewalk opposite to where they were standing, her scream drowned out by the continued screech of tires.  The driver of the truck continued down the street as if nothing had happened.
Aditya stared at Carissa's seemingly lifeless body, then glanced at everyone standing near him.  Neelam's eyes were already filled with tears, Zaid was breathing heavily and Samira had covered her mouth with her hands.  Any moment now, people would start panicking and panic was the last thing they needed.  If there was any chance of saving Carissa, someone would have to take charge.  Aditya had made up his mind that he would be that person.
To be continued...

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Edited by SuhanaSafar - 25 May 2009 at 9:07am
SuhanaSafar IF-Rockerz

Joined: 09 December 2006
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Posted: 25 May 2009 at 9:08am | IP Logged

The seven main characters and Carissa meet for the first group activity of their "Indian American Identity" class.  The prompt they discuss relates to how culture and parental expectations play into an Indian American college student's choice of major.  Due to arguments breaking out between Aditya and Hina as well as Rehaan and Deepali, they decide to take a break.  While they're walking towards an ice cream shop, Carissa gets hit by a pickup truck, which immediately drives away.

Chapter 4: Desperate Measures
Aditya (Mohit Sehgal, Samrat) took another look around the group.  Rehaan (Shahid Kapoor) and Hina (Deepika Padukone), who happened to be standing together, exchanged tense glances as if hoping that the other would understand what to do.  Deepali (Rati Pandey, Nupur) had taken her phone out of her pocket when it had begun to ring moments before the accident; it was still ringing as she clutched it tightly now and gawked in shock at Carissa's (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) unmoving form. 
"Everyone, stay calm," Aditya directed, his mind racing with thoughts on how to proceed.  "Deepali, can you call the police?"  Deepali nodded, cancelled her incoming call, and swiftly dialed 911.  "Does anyone here know CPR?" Aditya continued, making it a point to keep his voice steady.
"I do," Samira (Amrita Rao) replied, shakily.  "I volunteered at a hospital last year, and they trained me."
"Perfect," he stated.  "Let's go.  There's no time to waste."  With a hand on Samira's shoulder he led her across the street.  The rest of the group followed, except for Deepali who was still on the phone.
Samira dropped down on Carissa's right side, assessing the state of her condition.  Carissa was lying flat on her back, clearly unconscious.  Her arm was badly scraped and one leg bent at an awkard angle, but Samira was relieved to see that she was breathing.  Taking her wrist, she felt for her pulse.
"Her respiratory rate and pulse seem to be stable," Samira informed the group after a moment, "but I'm not sure how to determine the extent of her injuries.  We probably shouldn't move her in case her spine is-"
Neelam (Sanaya Irani, Gunjan) interrupted her.  "Wait a second!" she exclaimed in alarm.  "She's bleeding!"
Following her finger, they all found a small pool of blood forming on the sidewalk.  It appeared to be originating from Carissa's left lower back, which they now noticed, was slightly elevated compared to the right side. 
Rehaan walked over to Carissa's left, and bent down.  Careful not to move her more than was necessary, he searched for the lesion.
"Oh wow," he finally said with a gasp.  "She must have landed on a broken bottle.  There's a curved piece of glass lodged in her side."
Samira had come around to join him.  "What do we do now?" she questioned, desperation just perceptible in her voice.  "I'm still scared to move her, but we definitely can't let her bleed out."  Everyone sat on the ground next to them, thinking about their options.
"Zaid, why don't you call your dad?"  Aditya asked.  "I'm sure he'll be able to help us."
Zaid (Ranbir Kapoor) shook his head.  "He has a five hour surgery scheduled tonight.  I think he's already in the OR."
"Are you absolutely sure that's not on some other night?" Aditya was familiar enough with Zaid's traits to know that he had the tendency to confused days and times.
"It's today," Samira affirmed, eliminating any doubt that Aditya had.
"I know!" Hina spoke up.  "I'll call my brother.  He's a second year med student."  She yanked out her phone and began to search for her brother's entry.
Neelam waited with bated breath, praying that a year of medical school was sufficient to learn the basics of trauma medicine.  She glanced apprehensively at Aditya who was sitting next to her.  Returning her gaze, Aditya squeezed her arm reassuringly.
Deepali finally joined them, crouching down beside Neelam.  "My phone lost reception as I was giving directions to the dispatcher," she told them.  "Never occurred in three years, but it had to happen the one time I'm calling 911.  Anyway, they police and ambulance are on their way."  Samira nodded with a slightly relieved expression as she took Carissa's pulse for a second time.
They all glanced up as Hina spoke into her phone.  "Yusuf bhai?...Yes, actually something is wrong.  We really need your help..."  As briefly as possible, she described the accident and Carissa's condition to Yusuf.  "...and the pool of blood seems to be growing...Well, Samira knows CPR so she's taken over for now.  Here, I'll put you on speaker so you can talk directly to her."
Hina hit a button on her phone, and after a moment of silence, a pleasant yet concerned voice emanated from it.  "Um...Samira?'
"Yes, I'm here," Samira responded.  "Carissa's pulse has weakened significantly, so I think we should act fast."
"How much blood has she lost?"
"I'm not sure.  Maybe half a liter.  It's not a very rapid loss, but it seems to be constant."
"The first step is to stop the flow," Yusuf(Rajeev Khandelwal) advised.  "Apply pressure with something absorbent.  If she loses much more blood volume, she won't have enough perfusion to her brain."
"But there's a piece of glass in her wound, and the wound is on the left side of her lower back...a place that's sorta hard to access at the moment.  We're afraid to move her in case of spinal injury."  Samira's breathing was becoming more rapid and irregular with every passing second.
"Hmm, the glass makes it all more complicated.  Okay, I'm not sure if this is the best stategy, but I can't think of anything else.  You'll have to take a risk.  Try to keep her spinal column as still as possible, and remove the glass as quickly as you can.  Keep some cloth ready beforehand because she'll probably start to lose blood more rapidly the moment the glass is out.  I know it seems risky, but it should give you better access to the site so you can stop the bleeding."
Zaid was wearing two t-shirts so he pulled off the outer one and handed it to Samira.  "Here, use this."
Samira slowly took the shirt, but there was a terrified expression on her face.  She looked into Rehaan's eyes, her own eyes wide and pleading.  Rehaan understood at once and nodded.  He gently tilted Carissa's body and reached under her for the glass.  With a single fluid motion, he pulled it out.
Just then, three events happened in rapid succession.  Carissa awoke with a painful scream, Samira pushed the bunched up t-shirt onto the gash, and Neelam turned away in tears, inadvertently burying her face in Aditya's chest.  Realizing what just happened, Neelam quickly looked up and their eyes locked for a moment before she turned away.
"It's okay, Carissa," Rehaan said, breathing heavily.  "It's okay.  You're gonna be just fine."
"What...what happened?" Carissa said with much difficulty, wincing in pain.  She lifted her head as if trying to get up.
Deepali pushed down on her shoulder.  "Don't get up, Carissa.  The ambulance will be here any minute."  As Samira strained to stop the blood, Rehaan and Deepali continued to comfort Carissa.
Neelam wiped her tears with her face turned away from everyone, concerned that her sensitivity might cause Carissa to panic.  As she joined everyone in consoling her, she noticed Aditya smile appreciatively at her. 
"Guys, one more thing," Yusuf told them over the phone.  "If you elevate her legs, it'll effectively increase her plasma volume and prevent hypotensive shock."
"I have no clue what that means, bhai," Hina replied, "but I'm on it!"  Walking over to a nearby yard, she grabbed a lawn chair and dragged it back with her.  She lifted Carissa's legs onto it before kneeling down onto the sidewalk once again.
The blaring of sirens was heard as an ambulance appeared at the end of the street.  "Thank God," Aditya sighed, rising to a stand.  As the ambulance pulled up, they saw two police cars park behind it.  Aditya walked over to give the paramedics any information they needed, while Zaid and Deepali began talking to the police.
After hanging up with Yusuf, Hina also stood up and was watching the approaching paramedics when Neelam tapped her shoulder.  "Hina, can I speak to you for a moment?"
"Sure, what is it?"  Neelam took hold of Hina's forearm and pulled her away from Samira and Rehaan, who were too attentive to Carissa to notice anything. 
Neelam took a deep breath and stared gravely at Hina before disclosing her shocking revelation.  "I know who was driving that truck.  I saw his face."
When the paramedics had taken Carissa away on a stretcher, Samira put her face in her hands and stayed seated on the ground, trembling in a strange combination of anxiety and relief. 
Rehaan sat back down next to her and put a hand on her shoulder.  "You did an excellent job, Samira.  The paramedics said she'll be okay.  It's a good sign that she was talking coherently as they took her away."
As Samira took her hands away from her face, Rehaan was surprised to find that she was not crying, nor was her face tear-streaked.  The whole ordeal had been rough on her especially because Carissa was her roommate and friend, but it wasn't enough to cause her to break down.  Not only was Rehaan impressed with Samira's courage, but it also reminded him of his own approach to difficult circumstances.  His philosophy was that crying never accomplished anything, and consequently he hadn't shed a tear in at least ten years -- not even during those moments when his broken heart caused him anguish.
"I know and I'm very relieved," Samira replied. "It was just hard to see Carissa in so much pain.  And the thought of everything that could have gone wrong..."  She shuddered.
"I can't say that I wasn't terrified when the truck hit her," admitted Rehaan.  "But I think we all made a pretty good team, na?"
Samira nodded, a smile finally lighting up her face.  "Thanks so much for pulling the glass fragment out.  I don't know if I could have done it.  That one sign of support from you made all the difference for me today." 
"I'm glad I could help, but really you're the hero tonight."  He touched her arm affectionately.
She grinned, but shook her head.  "That would be Adi.  Without his initiative, we may not have been able to think clearly enough to do anything."
"True.  Aditya's a born leader.  I got the feeling tonight that he's destined for greatness."
Rehaan noticed Zaid walking towards them.  He gestured for Zaid to take his place and talk to his sister.  As Zaid took a seat and began to comfort and congratulate Samira, Rehaan rose and started walking toward the police car, where all the action was now.
On the way, he was stopped by Deepali's voice.  "Hey Rehaan."  She appeared beside him.  "I believe an apology is in order," she said grimly.
"You're right," Rehaan responded, reminded of his earlier realization of guilt.  "I was about to tell you that-"
"I'm so sorry that I totally overreacted."  Deepali cut him short, speaking on high-speed as always.  "I tend to misunderstand people the first time I meet them.  Since I didn't know anyone in the group, I had this irrational thought that you would all team up against me.  And then, you and Carissa kept turning down my suggestions, so I figured that my worst fears were confirmed.  But now I know that there was no reason for you to hate me.  It was all in my head.  So anyway, you think we could start over?"
Rehaan gaped at her wide-eyed, then burst out laughing.  "I almost thought I'd never get a turn to speak," he said with a grin.  "Deepali, I was actually about to apologize to you.  I was quite tactless in the way I rejected your ideas.  But I want you to know that what I was really trying to do is make Carissa feel more comfortable in a class full of Indians.  I'm surprised that I didn't notice that I had upset you, but I guess my attention was on Carissa at the time."
"Don't worry about it," Deepali assured him.  "But can I ask you a question if you don't mind?"
"Right after we were divided into groups, I noticed that you kept shooting strange glances at me.  It seemed like you were trying to make judgments about me based on my mannerisms."
"I guess I was in a way," Rehaan shrugged.  "When Leah mentioned spokespersons, I thought we would be able to select our own.  So I started wondering who would be the best for the position in our group.  Just to let you know, I was about to nominate you before Leah selected me."
"Aw, thanks!"  Deepali grinned.  "And to think I was planning to avoid you at all costs."
"Good thing it's all sorted out.  Shall we head over to the police car and see what's going on there?"  Rehaan could see that even Zaid and Samira were engaged in the discussion with the police now.
"Oh yeah.  Right."
As Deepali and Rehaan approached the group, Hina was standing a short distance away planning what she was going to say to the officers.  It was a strange coincidence that the person driving the hit-and-run vehicle happened to be Todd Mitchell, the second year student who had knocked Neelam down in a fit of anger at the convenience store a couple weeks ago -- which was when Neelam had first met Aditya.  Even more interesting was that as soon as Neelam mentioned Todd's name, Hina knew exactly who she was talking about.  Todd Mitchell had done almost everything in his power to get Hina to go out with him during the previous year, including harassing and threatening her.  It was only when she retaliated with the warning that she would inform the campus security about him that he finally gave up.  When Neelam told her that she had seen Todd in the driver's seat, Hina was absolutely certain that she was right because she suddenly remembered that Todd did, in fact, own a dark blue pickup truck.
Hina warily approached the group, just in time to overhear an officer asking Samira if she had any idea who would want to hurt Carissa.
"Officer, I know who it was," Hina interjected, seizing the opportunity.  "The driver of the truck was Todd Mitchell.  He's one of our classmates here at Penn."  Everyone seemed shocked at this disclosure, except for Neelam who stood silently, her expression nervous.
"How are you so sure?" the officer questioned.
"I caught a glimpse of his face as he drove by," Hina lied.  "And I recognize his truck."
"Why didn't you say anything until now?" he interrogated with a hint of mistrust.
Hina quickly made up a story that had some truth to it.  "Well, I've known Todd for almost a year now.  He made all kinds of threats last year to try to get me to date him.  I guess I'm still a little scared of him."  She quickly put on the most innocent, 'damsel-in-distress type' expression that she could come up with.
"All right," the officer conceded.  He gestured towards Aditya.  "This young man here has already given me a complete description of the perpetrator's truck.  I'd like you to give me any other information you might have that could help us arrest and convict him.  There's also the possibility that you may have to testify in court."
"That's fine," she agreed.  She proceeded to give the officer a detailed description of Todd Mitchell, the name of the dorm building where he currently resided, and the color of the shirt he was wearing when he had hit Carissa (which was a piece of information that Neelam had provided her with).
"Thank you for all the help," the officer finally said to them.  "I have all your numbers in my book in case I need to contact you again.  I will inform the University security and the resident faculty members at Carissa Green's dorm building about this accident.  I'm sure they will notify her parents pronto. I'll also pay a visit to Mr. Mitchell and take a look at his vehicle.  You kids should get back to your dorms and apartments now.  It's getting late.  You can visit your friend at the hospital first thing in the morning."
They all thanked the officer, who promptly drove away, and then started to walk back toward Neelam and Deepali's house in contemplative silence.  After a few minutes, Hina sped up to catch up with Aditya, who was walking in the front.
"Nice work today," she commented, smiling at him.
Aditya looked up in surprise.  "Thanks," he replied skeptically.
"I was thinking," Hina began, "that maybe we should try to tone it down a bit -- I mean try to get along.  For the sake of the group.  I'll try not to rush the meetings anymore."
Aditya nodded with a slight smile.  "That would be great.  And I'll try not to get so angry.  I really shouldn't have called you selfish."
Hina shrugged.  "It's all right.  I'm sure with time you'll realize that I'm not selfish."
"I really hope so."
"Thanks.  I hope you don't mind if I walk with Zaid now.  There's something I wanted to talk to him about."
"Not at all," Aditya replied.  He smiled to himself as he looked back to see the elated expression on Zaid's face as Hina joined him.
When he glanced behind him, Aditya's eyes also fell onto Rehaan and Deepali, who were now engrossed in conversation like old friends.  As unpleasant and terrifying Carissa's accident had been on the entire group, Aditya couldn't help but think that some good had come out of it. 


1. What do you think?  Long comments please...if you have time. Big smile
SuhanaSafar IF-Rockerz

Joined: 09 December 2006
Posts: 5226

Posted: 25 May 2009 at 9:09am | IP Logged
There is no need to remember who Jordan, Pooja and Chandni are...they're not important to the story.  If I ever bring them up again, I'll remind you.
With Aditya's leadership abilities, Samira's CPR knowledge and a call to Hina's brother, Yusuf, they manage to keep Carissa out of danger until the paramedics arrive.  Neelam informs Hina that she saw Todd Mitchell driving the truck, but it's Hina who claims to be the witness in front of the police.  Deepali and Rehaan apologize to each other and quickly become friends.  Aditya and Hina also decide to reconcile for the sake of the group.
Chapter 5: United by Compassion
Neelam awakened on Friday morning, drained from not sleeping enough.  As she sat up and switched off the shrill alarm resounding from the clock on her nightstand, the thought that had worried her through most of the night invaded her mind yet again. 
The previous evening, she had accidentally let it slip to Deepali that she had seen Todd Mitchell in the pickup truck window on Monday night.  After a suspicious gaze from Deepali, Neelam had tried to cover it up by stating that she had only gotten a brief glimpse of him and Hina was the only one who had seen his face clearly enough to identify it.  Unfortunately, she was a terrible liar, and by the expression on Deepali's face, it was clear that she had not bought the story.  Neelam felt horrible about trying to deceive her sister, but Hina had specifically instructed that they should keep the truth between the two of them. 
Staring at her weary reflection in the bathroom mirror, Neelam mulled over the situation once more.  The reason behind Hina's plea for confidentiality was apparent.  For Hina to take Neelam's place as the witness in front of the police and in court, it was essential for her to be credible.  Anyone who knew that Hina had not actually seen Todd in the truck would be a liability.  If someone unintentionally revealed their secret, it would cast doubt on the entire story and might lead to Todd's acquittal.  What better way to prevent any mishaps than not telling anyone? 
Neelam was certain that if she explained the circumstances to Deepali, she would never say a word to anyone else.  Deepali was overly talkative and rash with her words at times, but there could be no better person to divulge a secret to.  She was the type of person who would carry any and all secrets to her grave.  Hina surely wouldn't mind if Neelam told her sister, as long no one else caught wind of the story, would she?  Well, it's too late to worry about what Hina will say, Neelam thought to herself.  Since she was having difficulty keeping it a secret and Deepali was already suspicious, Neelam couldn't think of a better course of action than disclosing the truth.
Throwing a white cardigan on over her black-and-white printed dress, she stepped out of her room and made her way down the hallway.  The door to Deepali's room was open and Neelam could hear her humming softly.  Approaching the door, she saw Deepali sitting at her dresser, running a brush through her wavy hair.  She was dressed as flamboyantly as ever in an electric blue top and black skinny jeans.  Catching a glimpse of Neelam in the mirror, Deepali spun around in her chair.
"Hey, good morning!" she said, cheerfully.  "Andar aao na."
"You're speaking in Hindi, Deepali?" Neelam responded in surprise.  "Koyi khaas vaja?"  She entered the room and took a seat on Deepali's bed.
"Well, I was hoping that my Hindi class would help me eliminate my accent."  Deepali set her hairbrush on the dresser joined Neelam on the bed.  "But the Professor suggested that I practice speaking at home.  To isi liye maine socha ke apni pyaari behen se thodi...what's the word again?...haan, gupshup karoon."
Neelam grinned.  Deepali complained endlessly about how prominent her accent was when she spoke in Hindi, but Neelam never understood what all the fuss was about.  The accent was very minor and it would undoubtedly go away with practice.
"Achcha khayaal hai," Neelam answered.  "But first, I have something important that I need to talk to you about."  Taking a deep breath, she launched into a detailed account about Monday night, describing how she had identified the driver of the pickup truck but was apprehensive about approaching the police.  The last thing she had wanted was for Todd to be exonerated because she didn't have the nerve to properly state her case in front of a judge and jury.  Thus she had sought help from Hina, who coincidentally happened to know Todd very well.
"You're telling me all this now?" Deepali questioned, appearing hurt.  She had taken one of the hot pink cushions from her bed onto her lap and was pulling on the tassels with a little too much force.  "Four days later?"
Neelam bowed her head guiltily.  "I'm really sorry."
"Neelam, we're twin sisters.  Nothing good can come from us keeping secrets from each other."
"Tum mujhse bahut naraaz ho?"  She gazed at Deepali with large, innocent eyes.
Instantly, Deepali's somber expression transformed into a warm smile and she dropped the cushion.  "Main tumse naraaz kaise ho sakti hoon."  She cupped her sister's chin affectionately.  "You're the sweetest sister in the world.  I just hope you didn't keep this from me because you thought I couldn't be trusted."
"Never, Deeps."  Neelam shook her head fervently.  "There's no one I trust more than you."
"Good.  To phir hum is sab ko bhula dete hain, theek hai?  I just hope Hina will be able to get justice for Carissa."
"If anyone can do it, it's Hina."
Their mother's voice called to them from the kitchen.  "Deepali...Neelam...nashta nahin khaana hai kya?"
Neelam looked at her watch and stood up suddenly.  "Baaton baaton main sab bhool gayi.  I have to be at campus ten minutes early today.  Jordan's meeting me at Hill Square to give me the new keys to the lab."
"Ooooh, I'm coming with you!" Deepali told her excitedly, getting to her feet as well.
Neelam gave her a disapproving glance.  "Deepali, he's a grad student, and at least five years older than us."
"That doesn't make him any less cute.  You know I live for eye-candy."
Neelam laughed at this honest assertion as she and Deepali headed downstairs toward the kitchen.
Zaid and Aditya were seated across from one another at a table outside one of the campus cafes.  While Aditya was hard at work with a textbook in front of him, Zaid just leaned back in his chair, enjoying the pleasant campus scenery and gentle breeze.
Glancing up and detecting Zaid dreamy expression, Aditya smiled to himself and shook his head.  "Khwabon mein khoye rahoge ya kuch kaam bhi karoge?" he asked.  "Don't you have a problem set due this afternoon as well?"
"Actually, I finished it yesterday," Zaid answered with a pleased grin.
"Really?" Aditya questioned incredulously.  "First you start showing up to class on time, and now you finish your homework early?  Who are you, and what have you done with my best friend?"
Zaid laughed briefly, and then the faraway look returned to his eyes.  "I met Hina in the engineering lounge yesterday.  She was doing some school work, so I joined her."
"Achcha to yeh baat hai."  Aditya watched Zaid silently for a moment before adding, "You really like her, don't you?"
"Sach kahoon?"  After a nod from Aditya, he continued, "I think I might be falling in love."
Aditya smiled knowingly.  "I figured you'd say that.  So are you gonna tell her?"
"Are you kidding?" Zaid retorted.  "This is the first time I've felt this way about a girl.  I can't risk rejection so soon."
"You can ask one of the other girls to feel the situation out.  You know, try to find out if she likes you too without saying anything directly.  Mujhe lagta hai ke Chashmish aur Deepali ki us se kaafi dosti hai."
"Did you just call my sister Chashmish?"  They turned to find Deepali standing near their table with a stern expression.  Neelam was next to her, but her face displayed a coy smile as she absentmindedly played with the lab keys in her hands.  Zaid's eyes grew wide as he wondered how much they had overheard. 
"Uska mazaak to nahin uda rahe?" Deepali added, practicing her Hindi as she reprimanded Aditya.
"Kisi mein itni himmat kahaan jo woh Deepali ki behen ka mazaak udaye," Aditya replied with a clever grin.  "Aur waise bhi, Neelam meri dost hai.  It's just a friendly nickname.  I'm sure she doesn't mind."
Neelam's smile grew broader to indicate that she didn't. 
"Why are you girls standing?" Aditya asked.  "There are two empty seats at the table."  He gestured towards the chairs.
"I guess we can hang out for a bit," Neelam consented as she took a seat, "but we have class at ten." 
Deepali dropped down into the other empty seat.  "So, what are you guys up to?"
Zaid was relieved that Deepali had not asked why Aditya had been mentioning their names.  Perhaps she had forgotten about it.  "Well, since I already completed my homework, I'm just enjoying the beautiful weather," Zaid commented, grinning slyly, "and watching Adi slave away."
"Jitna hasna hai abhi haslo, because it'll never happen again" Aditya countered lightheartedly.  Then he turned back to his work.  "I'm stuck on the last question.  'Why was President Theodore Roosevelt called the Hero of San Juan Hill?'  We're required to find the answers in our book and reference the pages.  I looked through the entire chapter on Roosevelt's presidency and couldn't find a thing."
"I think that nickname has something to do with his role in the Spanish-American war," Neelam suggested.  "You might want to look into the years preceding his presidency."
Aditya turned back a few pages, and within a minute, he found what he was looking for.  "Hey, it's right here...Battle of Santiago de Cuba.  Thanks Neelam.  That's quite impressive.  You're a Physics major, yet you know more than I do about my own subject."
Neelam shook her head, turning pink.  "I don't know more than you.  I just know some random facts."
"She reads all the time," Deepali informed them.  "Ask her about any subject, and she'll be able to tell you something about it."
Aditya smiled appearing highly impressed.  Now that he had the answer to his question, he quickly finished his problem set and put it away in his folder.
"So, today's the beginning of Labor Day weekend," Deepali said.  "Any plans?"  She turned to Zaid.
"Uh, not really," he answered.  "The 76ers are playing the Celtics on Sunday night.  I know I'll be watching that game."
"Nice.  Neelam and I watch basketball with our dad sometimes.  He gets so worked up over every single basket or referee call.  It's quite entertaining."  She turned to Aditya.  "Adi, are you doing anything interesting?"
"Well, I'll be watching the game with Zaid, of course," Aditya replied.  "But I'm also considering going hang gliding tomorrow."
Neelam stared at him, astounded.  "You're not serious, are you?" she questioned.
"Actually, I am.  I've always wanted to try it out, but I never had the chance.  A friend of mine suggested a place to me a few days ago, so I'm planning on checking it out."
"That's so awesome!" Deepali commented.  "You should definitely go.  I've been thinking about going skydiving or hang gliding for at least two years now.  What's the point of living if you don't do anything exciting?"  The tempo of Deepali's speech increased as she became more and more excited.  "I've been trying to convince Neelam, but she doesn't even want to talk about it."
"I'm with you, Neelam," Zaid divulged.  "I can't imagine why anyone in their right mind would want to hang thousands of feet above the ground."
"Well, you two don't have to come," Aditya stated, "but I'm sure you'll regret it when Deepali and I have the time of our lives.  Kya khayaal hai, Deepali?"
"Bilkul sahi kaha," Deepali replied merrily.  "But Adi, how did you become interested in hang gliding?"
"My parents used to go all the time.  It was their favorite pastime."
"They don't go anymore?" Deepali asked, ingenuously.
Aditya chewed on his bottom lip wondering how to respond to that.  He finally realized there was no way around it.  "Actually, they died about four years ago."
"Oh," Deepali reacted.  "I'm so sorry."
"What happened?" Neelam questioned with concern.
"They went to Atlanta for a conference and never made it back," Aditya recounted.  "Their plane went down in a field in Mississippi.  It was some kind of engine malfunction."
"Wow," said Neelam faintly.  "I can't even imagine how traumatic that must have been for you - losing so much so suddenly."
Staring at his hands, Aditya sighed softly.  "I had trouble believing it for a while.  Whenever I would sit by myself trying to cope with it all, I almost expected them to walk into the room and sit beside me...and for everything to return to how it was.  It took me at least a year to finally find closure."
Glancing up, Aditya was stunned to witness tears brimming in Neelam's eyes as she gazed at him with nothing but the most genuine empathy.  He recalled the image of her tear-streaked face from the night of Carissa's accident, and he was overcome with appreciation for her sincerity and sensitivity.  He had never met another person who could feel the pain of others so deeply. 
The chime of the campus clock tower broke through the silence, announcing that it was 10 AM. 
"Oh, we're late for class," Deepali said, rising to a stand.  "I'm sorry again, Adi.  I would never have mentioned it if-"
"I know," Aditya interjected.  "Don't worry about it."
Deepali nodded sympathetically, and then pulled her backpack on.  "Chalo Neelam."
Neelam stood up, wiping her eyes on the sleeve of her sweater.  Before joining her sister, she touched Aditya's shoulder lightly and gave him another supportive glance. 
"See you guys in a little bit," she said as she followed Deepali toward the quad.
"And don't forget about tonight!" Zaid called after them. 
"We'll be there," Deepali replied.
As the girls turned a corner and disappeared, Zaid turned to Aditya.  "You know Adi," he began after a slight hesitation.  "I know that you prefer to look to the future instead of wondering what could have been.  But I'm sure there are times when this isn't as easy as you expect it to be.  I hope you know if you ever need anyone to talk to or any kind of help, I'm always here."
Aditya raised an eyebrow at him.  "So if I ever need your help and I give you a call..."  He leaned forward and whispered, "...can you guarantee that your phone will be with you instead of lying forgotten in your car?"  He now had a wide grin on his face.
Zaid rolled his eyes.  "Main yahaan serious baat raha hoon, aur tum..."
"I heard you Zaid," Aditya replied.  His smile had faded and was replaced with a meaningful expression.  "And I'll take you up on that if I ever need to.  But as for now, main bilkul theek hoon."
"Hey Rehaan, wait up."
Turning in the hallway to look behind him, Rehaan saw a dusky desi girl he didn't know walking towards him.  Her face seemed familiar, but he couldn't place it.  He stopped as she caught up with him.
"Hi, I'm Pooja," she said.  Rehaan had the distinct feeling that she was checking him out as she glanced from his slightly faded jeans up to his pale green polo shirt.  "You don't know me, but I'm on the South Asia Society board.  Secretary to be precise.  I was there for your audition yesterday."
"Oh."  Rehaan frowned slightly as he lowered his eyes.  The South Asia Society was the last thing he wanted to think about at the moment.
"You have every right to be unhappy with the club," Pooja told him.  "Your choreography was better than anything I've seen here in the last three years.  You really should have been chosen to direct the HFD...Oh, I'm sorry.  I mean the Hindi Film Dance."
"Then why wasn't I?"  The words were out before Rehaan could stop himself.
"Chandni has been doing it for two years, and she has a lot of friends on the board.  Besides, this is her last year at Penn.  I know this doesn't justify anything, but think of it this way.  She'll be gone in the spring, and you'll still have three more years to be a part of this show."
"I'm not quite sure that I'll want to," Rehaan turned to walk away.
"Hold on," Pooja stopped him.  "I know you only applied for the Hindi Film Dance, but the board decided to give you the Fusion Dance if you want it.  It involves fewer dancers and isn't usually as eagerly awaited as the HFD, but I'm sure you can turn all that around."
"But why should I?" he asked bitterly.
"Because this is your chance to prove to the board that they made a mistake," she urged.  "I have no doubt that by the end of the show, you'll receive a formal apology from the Cultural Programming Chair.  And I'm sure you'll be selected to choreograph HFD in the spring show, which is a much bigger show than this one."
Rehaan pondered this for a moment.  "Thanks for letting me know, Pooja.  Can I think about it and give you an answer later tonight?"
"Sure.  My email address and phone number are on the South Asia Society website.  I really hope you take up the opportunity." 
When Pooja left, Rehaan continued down the hall, trying to make a decision on the matter.  He knew he would enjoy being a part of the show, but he couldn't get over the unfairness of the board's decision.
Leaving the building, he headed toward a nearby cafe where Aditya and Zaid were waiting for him.
"Hey Rehaan," Aditya greeted him.  "You made it.  Ready to go?"
"Is it just the three of us?" Rehaan asked.
"The girls have class until 11," Zaid clarified.  "They'll come afterwards."
They began walking toward the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.  Aditya and Zaid debated the pros and cons of pursuing hang gliding as a hobby while Rehaan remained reflectively silent.
"So Rehaan," Aditya said, bringing him back to reality.  "What are your views on hang gliding?"
"I didn't know it was a controversial topic," Rehaan joked.  "Actually, I love it.  My best friend and I used to go all the time during high school."  He smiled nostalgically as he recollected a particularly enjoyable day on which he and Vincent had spent several hours soaring through the clouds.
Zaid and Aditya exchanged stunned glances. 
"Just when I was about to write you off as a quiet and dull guy, you spring this on me," Aditya commented with a laugh.
For the rest of the walk, Rehaan narrated the details of his hang gliding experience to his fascinated audience.
Entering Carissa's room at the hospital, they were unsurprised to find Gavin sitting next to her with her hand in his.  They had visited Carissa every day since the accident, and Gavin had never failed to be present.
"Hey, you're here," Carissa greeted them, beaming with enthusiasm.  She appeared a lot healthier than she had the prior day.  In fact, the only visible indications that anything had happened were the cast on her left leg and the bandages around her right arm.  They were also aware that she had fifteen stitches in her side, but those were concealed by her hospital gown. 
"Wow, you look great, Carissa," Zaid commented as they all approached her bed.  "How are you feeling?"
"Just about perfect," she replied.  "Ready to get out of here."
"Her CT and MRI are completely normal," Gavin updated them.  "A doctor came in yesterday and tested her cognitive function, and he seemed pleased as well."
"Must have been a neuropsychologist," Rehaan said. "Anyway, that's great news.  Seems like the concussion was very minor."
"You'll be back on your skateboard in no time," Aditya remarked with a smile. 
Carissa grinned back.  "I can't wait, but the doctors say I should take it easy for at least a month.  I'll be discharged this Sunday though, so that's exciting." 
"I really can't thank you guys enough," Gavin said gratefully. 
Aditya gave him a stern look.  "Let's not get started on that again, Gavin."
"Carissa, didn't your parents arrive last night?"  Rehaan changed the subject to avoid the advent of a somber atmosphere. 
"Yes, they did.  They were here until about an hour ago, but they looked like they hadn't slept in three days, so I-"  She was interrupted by a knock on the door.  "Who could that be?" she wondered aloud.  "Come in."
The door opened and a young man wearing a sky blue t-shirt over another ivory colored one walked in hesitantly with a small bouquet of red and white tulips.
"Karan?"  Carissa stared in astonishment. 
At ten minutes after 11, Neelam arrived at the University Square and found Samira seated at a bench, adding color-coded tabs to her Biology notes.  She was dressed in a white top and a long, lavender skirt that was perfectly suited for her delicate figure.
"Hi Samira," Neelam greeted her, taking a seat next to her.  "Happy Birthday."
Samira smiled.  "Thanks, but how did you...oh, I bet Bhaiyya has been advertising it."
"You could say that," Neelam responded.  "His gift looks great on you."
"Oh, thank you."  Samira lightly touched the S-shaped diamond pendant around her neck. 
"I ran into him yesterday," explained Neelam.  "He was so excited about it that he had to pull it out and show me."
As Samira laughed, Hina and Deepali joined them.  "Are you guys talking about Zaid?" Hina asked.  "He's been excited about Samira's birthday for days now."  She grinned at Samira.  "You must be a great sister."
Samira shrugged as she and Neelam rose from the bench.  "My family's big on birthdays.  My dad wanted to buy me a car, but I convinced him that I don't need one right now."
Deepali was thunderstruck.  "Why would you refuse a new car?"
"Just because we can afford it doesn't mean we should spend lavishly.  One car between me and Bhaiyya is more than enough.  Another one would just be a waste of money." 
"All right, Miss Practical," Hina snickered, "but don't let Zaid hear you mentioning 'waste of money.'  He'll think you didn't like his gift, and he'll be heartbroken."
"Shall we go?" Neelam spoke up, reminding them of their destination.
"Oh yeah," Deepali said.  "Carissa must be waiting for us."  The four of them finally headed in the direction of the hospital. 
Before they had even reached the end of the block, Neelam abruptly stopped in her tracks.  Her eyes widened with anxiety.  Her face became sheet white and goosebumps arose on her skin.  She stood still, her heart pounding in her chest as she stared in front of her.
Todd Mitchell was leaning against a telephone pole at the end of the street, glowering at them.
To be continued...
1. Do you think Neelam and Hina's good intentions justifies them lying to to the police (and in court)?
2. If you were Rehaan, would you take part in the show despite the injustice?
3. How do you like my siggy? Tongue
Of course, I'd love any and all comments/feedback, so please don't let these questions restrict you.

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Adi''s_GirL 128 12010 09 September 2007 at 7:44am by Shazia_haya

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