A Sports Carnival with #manzilbooks

This post is to inform everyone the books we’ve been collecting for Manzil are finally going to be put on sale. It’s also going to be combined with the school’s Sports Carnival, which will take place on Saturday, February 11, 2012 at the Khalifa University, Sharjah.

Normally, these events are a bit low key, with just the parents and families involved. But this time, the Manzil Sports Day has evolved into the Sports Carnival.

Here’s the event invite; do pop by!

If not to cheer the adorable students while they compete in various sports, but to buy some books and play some games? Come on, it’ll be a fun day out. The event invite says 10am-5pm; from 10am-12pm are the sporting events and then onwards is the fun fair activities, including the booksale.

Anyone want to help them out? Read on, thanks!

Also, if anyone is interested in supporting the school, here’s how you can do it:

1. The school is selling spaces/tables for firms and/or individuals with businesses who want to showcase their wares and sell their items on that day. Participation for this closes February 2, 2012. Do spread the word.
2. They need a photographer and a videographer from 10am-1pm that day. Anyone who’s up for some pro bono work, drop me a line at contact(at)devinadivecha(dot)com.

Thanks again to everyone who supported the collection of books!

Previous posts you might want to read:
Participate in a special Sports Carnival + #manzilbooks update
The #manzilbooks update
At #manzilbooks at @wildpeeta
Donate books to help raise funds for a special needs school


Participate in a special Sports Carnival + the #manzilbooks update


That’s just a small fraction of the books that was loaded into the bus that came to pick it all up a few days ago. I want to thank everyone who donated their books to raise money for Manzil. I had nearly 2,000 in my house, and my father for one, is extremely happy that his storage room is empty now so he can stuff his things back in! I also picked up the books from Wild Peeta; a very big thank you again to them for letting me fill their shelves with the books we were collecting (I’m going to still collect until January, so please keep donating!).

Okay, so when IS the booksale? Many people have been asking me and I’ve been quite puzzled about it myself. After loads of delays, I’ve been told the plan is to hold it during the school’s Sports Carnival. I’m attaching the information given to me about the event here, sent to my by email:

Our theme for this year is “Together We Can”. To promote the same, we are organizing a Sports Carnival on Saturday 28th January 2012, from 10.00 am to 5.00pm, at the Khalifa University, Sharjah.

We are inviting mainstream and special needs schools from the U.A.E to participate in various activities. There will also be different kinds of stalls and games. The stalls are sold for minimum amount of AED 300. This is in the form of a donation. You may choose to pay more.

Please come forward to be part of our team to show the society that you care. Entries for participation will be received on or before Thursday 22nd December 2011.

And the formal letter that invites participation from members of the public:

Download this file

Please spread the word to anyone whom you think might want a stall at the event! Thank you 🙂

Champion of Broken Hearts launch


Even though I knew who she was…I’d never heard Gayathri Krishnan sing before. I was invited to her music video launch at the Traffic gallery on November 10, 2011, and off I went.

The musical ability in my family skipped my generation. My maternal grandfather used to sing on All India Radio and we even have tapes of his songs, many of which he wrote and composed himself; his wife, that is, my grandmother has sung with him on one of his songs…and no day in my house goes by without my mother singing in her sweet voice.

And because all I can do is croak like a frog rather than sing like a nightingale, I appreciate, more than anyone realizes, the ability of someone with musical talent.


Memorabilia from the night

I saw the video teaser of Gayathri’s song, Champion of Broken Hearts, but didn’t fully realize the power of her voice in those few seconds.

When she started singing at the launch, I was impressed. She turns into this husky, bewitching woman who can sing her way through to your heart. And then…she made me cry. One of her songs reminded me something, something that broke my heart and tears welled up, unbidden.


Right after that song ended, I bought her CD. When a singer makes you laugh, or cry…there’s no other choice is there?

Part of the proceeds of her CD sales from that day have been pledged to Manzil – a centre for challenged individuals.


I also believe her CD will be available at Virgin Megastore for those who want to purchase it. If you appreciate good music and a talented voice, you will be interested.

To learn more about her music, you can click on the following links:

Official website
Facebook page

A selection of photographs from the night:


Femme Fatale: the #Geekafest edition of @GeekFestDubai

It’s been a long time coming.


I knew since May I think, or perhaps June, that I was going to speak at the next GeekFest. The un-organizer Alexander McNabb had said then, that the next instalment of the event would be dedicated to female speakers at the GeekTalks.


At that time, I only had #manzilbooks to talk about. For that reason, I am so glad it was moved to September, because now I had more to say.

But HEY…this GeekFest (also termed Geekafest) was going to be held, for the first time, at the new location of The Shelter in the Al Serkal Avenue in Al Quoz, Dubai.

Before I could venture there, intrepid photographer Shruti and myself headed over in our cadmium pigmented cars to the old Shelter on Street 318b. Honestly, it felt like a scene out of a horror movie: two women with cameras and flash lights go into bushy, grassy, tree-filled area with overgrown weeds and no clear path in sight. Yeah. That.

However, this abandoned area of grassy horrordom was only a small patch, and we had people from the next warehouse stare at us curiously as we set up a tripod (when I say we, I mean her; I just walked about, muttering to myself), a camera, a flash and all that sort of photographic thing she does.

Once we’d finished our mysterious business there, we headed to the new Shelter!

It looks like a barn within a gallery – that was my first thought. Shruti and I harrassed people to stand in front of her snazzy camera and answer a couple of questions, while I fretted about forgetting things I knew I wanted to mention in my talk.

Watching the GeekTalks, including myself, @AmazingSusan, @AidaAlB and @NaylaAlKhaja

I hurried over when it was my turn, fired up Prezi (If interested, you can view my presentation here.) and started talking about autism and the projects I’m working on to raise awareness on it in the UAE. I think I stayed in my 15 minutes time limit, as I did not have Rupert Bumfrey let loose hell’s hounds on me, so I’d count that as a plus!

It was a night of friends and … photobombing. Check these out (I’m not sure why Zooberry is in most of them):


That’s @PKGulati in full business mode:

Resident photographer and videographer for the night, Shruti:

There’s a top floor too! With a meeting room and a common seating area…it’s awesome!

GamesFest was happening upstairs…check out @asatiir doing his Xbox thing (as for me, I can only imagine him going: “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”):

Surprise of the night: Hisham dressed like everyone else. Okay well … maybe not with those torn jeans.

Anastasia about to punch anyone who mentions chick flicks to her:


There’s a fake men’s moment with an iPhone here:

Thanks for coming everyone! Check out the remaining pics here (there are about 60-odd of them!). I took the GeekaFest talks poster and have stuck it up in my room to remind me of the night. Thanks @GeekFestDubai and Alexander for letting me speak 🙂
Also, a selection of tweets from the night:

View “GeekaFest Dubai” on Storify

Our first @UAEArte

I was nervous. This was the first time I’d be placing Artism in the limelight, the first time I’d be seeing whether Karan’s work would be received well by the general public. I’m happy to say it went well and I’m looking forward to the next Ramadan market by ARTE on August 26, 2011 at Dubai Festival City, from 6-11pm.

It started out well, I got there at 5pm to set up and landed a sweet spot near the parking entrance, which meant loads of people saw my table first. Properly set up by about 5:30pm, people slowly started stopping at the table and having a look.


Many stopped by, commented on what was on offer, picked up the leaflet I’d printed out (which explained more about Artism) and almost all had something to tell me. To say I was overwhelmed by the encouragement would be accurate.

Karan stopped by too, with my parents. He sat at the table for a bit, then got excited (not sure why) and got a hold of one of his creations and energetically snapped it. Then began the rummage to find the beads that had exploded all over the place. He’s been told he’s going to have to make it again!

But the night went very well. We sold about 60% of the stock we had, with people asking if we took orders, which is great! Hope to see more people at the next one.

For the full set of photographs, check them out here.

Check out the snazzy slideshow of his work that was on display:

Tweets from the night:

View “Artism at ARTE” on Storify


An evening with @gulfscrabble

The UAE Scrabble Club has been around for 21 years now, having been founded in 1990 (incidentally the year I moved to the UAE I think). Surprising then, that I hadn’t heard of it until I joined Twitter and realized a man in front of whom I regularly had epiphanies, belonged to such a fine group of people.


I’d always had the misfortune of missing out on board games events/tweetups that Nikhil Soneja (the epiphany man, who can be found here), but I got lucky this time. There was going to be a Scrabble meet at Wild Peeta, and naturally, I had to go!

The games were in full swing by the time I showed up. If you’re a casual Scrabbler, you will be thrown into a whole new world altogether. The game is serious, people are in it to win. It’s a game of strategy, a game of cool wits and quick thinking. Each player has 25 minutes each and they hit the timers with a sense of urgency.

Scrabble? Poof. We play in the minor league. This is the big deal, right here.



Since I didn’t get a good shot of the organizer, you’ll have to content yourself with a shot of Nikhil being a tile strategist

I played with Shruti, who also took photographs for a timelapse (as you might have noticed in the photo gallery), and she won, 308-285 (she won with a final play of ZOO, getting her 24 points!). We learned a lot. For example, ‘za’, ‘ug’ and ‘wo’ are accepted words in the Scrabble lexicon. 25 minutes time is given to each player. Tile tracking is important for planning a strategy. Zarf is an awesome iPhone/iPod/iPad app for Scrabble enthusiasts. This website (www.isc.ro) is where serious Scrabblers and enthusiasts should register to play.

But here’s the thing: they’re all very friendly. I sat around different tables, asking questions that probably make anyone roll their eyes internally and wonder why noobs like me were wandering around… but they were friendly, answered all my questions and didn’t make me feel like a Scrabble virgin (even though I’ve been playing for about 15 years). So it’s definitely a place for people who play Scrabble casually too. I had this boy wonder (I should’ve got his name but didn’t) who kept peppering our play with random comments: “Plastids? That’s a good word.” or, “Who played that word? It’s good”.

I’m going back for another round.


To join the UAE Scrabble Club, visit their Facebook page, Twitter account, and Google Groups page.

Manzil’s annual concert – “I Can”


(First picture in the slideshow was taken at the dress rehearsal a few days before the concert by @SaharLatheef. I don’t have very many pictures from the concert – I’d left my camera with my parents while I helped @shru_ the best I could with the video she was taking of the event.)

As always, Karan’s school hosts a concert for its students to participate in. I’d missed last year’s concert because I was away in UK, so I was quite excited about this year’s. It was held at the Sharjah Cultural Palace and this year was called “I Can”.

The event started off as always with a slideshow of all the students photographs, then the UAE national anthem and the Surah recitation by one of the students. After a singing performance by the students and the Best Buddies from Millennium School, Sharjah, there was a dance performance called Fire and Water. We saw two students graduating from the school this year, much to everyone’s applause and encouragement. Then we had the musical play, I Can, which was an adaptation of Helen Keller’s life. The concert ended as always, with a vote of thanks.

I always love going to these events … whether it’s their concert or their sports days (which I’ve said before). Even if you’re going through a particularly bad patch, attending these events never fails to lift spirits. It works for me anyway. You can go in feeling really bad about something, and walk out feeling on top of the world. Just seeing the student’s enthusiasm, hard work and effort paying off is such a lovely thing. You see the students really giving their all to put on an awesome show for their families and you see how much they’ve progressed since joining the school. The atmosphere is even more charged because of the expectations and hopes the audience has; it seems like such a normal thing…to perform at an event, doesn’t it? Preps for these concerts are even more than what other “normal” schools would go through. The students are given roles according to their ability and are trained to do it well. Karan had to walk in and then go to the fringe of the stage – he was playing a mountain hehe.

Can’t wait for their next event; one of the most exhilarating experiences I have every year.

At #manzilbooks at @wildpeeta

First, have a look at the lovely timelapse video that Shruti (aka @shru_) created. Then we’ll get on to the other stuff!

Along with @TwitBookClub, I hosted a event at Wild Peeta OS at DWTC (thanks @wildpeeta!), asking people to donate their unwanted books. Manzil, a centre for challenged individuals, is a small institution doing a lot of work for people with special needs and they’re hoping to host a fundraiser soon where they will sell all the books they have collected.

We’re still collecting books for them, so please get in touch with myself (@DevinaDivecha) or Anastasia (@TDAllonsy) or email me at autism at devinadivecha dot com and we can arrange to pick up the books from you. They were initially hoping to host the event in June, but frankly, it’s mostly been our efforts through Twitter that have seen results, so they don’t have very many books yet to justify hosting an all-day fundraising event, so the date has been pushed back. So I urge you to please help with this…spread the word…that’s all I ask.

A BIG thank you to everyone who showed up (we collected 102 books that day!), and I hope you can pass this info along so the school benefits from whatever contribution people have to make.

To round it off, here’s a look at some pics from the event, where we’re mostly just having a laugh: