Flying towards my Star Wars obsession…

When I was a little girl, watching movies about something called the Force, and a black-clad man who breathed as if through a ventilator, and watched a little green thing mix up his sentence construction, little did I know my passion obsession for it would leave me on a plane on a journey 7-8 hours away just to attend a weekend dedicated to the world of Star Wars.

When this post publishes, I’ll probably be near London, or already landed.
This is another birthday present to myself: a long trip to the UK. But I never would’ve taken the initiative to organize this trip for myself had a little newsletter not popped up in my inbox. I don’t often subscribe to them; I find many of them annoying. Indeed, when I signed up for the Guardian Masterclass newsletter, I had no idea where it would take me. I sometimes don’t even read the newsletters that come winging my way; the ‘delete’ button is my friend. But I did click on a particular one that arrived on November 29, 2011 and was titled: “Enrol now for Star Wars weekend in Scotland”.
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Since then I was hooked. I kept thinking about whether I could make it happen. Could I afford it? Was it worth it? But I missed UK far too much… I left the country on January 27, 2011 (that date is embedded in my mind), with a heavy heart. I fell in love with the UK and after not having seen my friends or been there for months, I knew this was a reason to go back on holiday. Plane tickets booked, friends informed, and visa in hand … I was ready.
But why would I go for a Star Wars weekend? Simply because I love the Star Wars ‘verse. Here’s a quick glimpse of the things I have or the places I’ve been or the events I’ve gone for that fill the geeky me with glee:
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  • My second Star Wars poster, which I got for a cool 99p at the most awesome store ever, Forbidden Planet
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  • My third Star Wars poster…can’t even remember when I got this!
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  • A magic Star Wars cube, which I picked up while rummaging through the dusty labyrinths of Camden (no picture, sorry!)
  • My McDs Happy Meal toy: double-sided lightsaber

 

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  • I even have the book of the movies!
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  • My re-mastered Star Wars DVD set
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  • My old Star Wars re-mastered VHS tapes, and…
  • My even older Star Wars VHS tapes…and…
  • Revenge of the Sith on DVD
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  • My Star Wars t-shirt from Camden
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  • My other Star Wars t-shirt from a travelling sci-fi fair in Sheffield
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  • Yoda
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  • Star Wars Monopoly set
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  • Star Wars bumper sticker: “My other ride is an X-Wing”
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  • Star Wars iPad decal…ON MY iPad!
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  • My customised Empire Darth Vader notebook (btw if anyone can get me a copy of that iconic breathing cover, PLEASE let me know…would really appreciate it!)
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I probably have some more things about somewhere, but this is all that comes to mind right now. Here’s to an awesome weekend, and learning a lot more about the movies that have such an ingrained part of my life.
May the Force be with us all

– Darth Devina (as Ayub called me when he saw the engraving on my iPad)

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What happens if you fall in love with a writer?

Thanks to @dubaitara for linking to this one…absolutely love it!

What happens if you fall in love with a writer?

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Lots of things might happen. That’s the thing about writers. They’re unpredictable. They might bring you eggs in bed for breakfast, or they might all but ignore you for days. They might bring you eggs in bed at three in the morning. Or they might wake you up for sex at three in the morning. Or make love at four in the afternoon. They might not sleep at all. Or they might sleep right through the alarm and forget to get you up for work. Or call you home from work to kill a spider. Or refuse to speak to you after finding out you’ve never seen To Kill A Mockingbird. Or spend the last of the rent money on five kinds of soap. Or sell your textbooks for cash halfway through the semester. Or leave you love notes in your pockets. Or wash you pants with Post-It notes in the pockets so your laundry comes out covered in bits of wet paper. They might cry if the Post-It notes are unread all over your pants. It’s an unpredictable life.

But what happens if a writer falls in love with you?

This is a little more predictable. You will find your hemp necklace with the glass mushroom pendant around the neck of someone at a bus stop in a short story. Your favorite shoes will mysteriously disappear, and show up in a poem. The watch you always wear, the watch you own but never wear, the fact that you’ve never worn a watch: they suddenly belong to characters you’ve never known. And yet they’re you. They’re not you; they’re someone else entirely, but they toss their hair like you. They use the same colloquialisms as you. They scratch their nose when they lie like you. Sometimes they will be narrators; sometimes protagonists, sometimes villains. Sometimes they will be nobodies, an unimportant, static prop. This might amuse you at first. Or confuse you. You might be bewildered when books turn into mirrors. You might try to see yourself how your beloved writer sees you when you read a poem about someone who has your middle name or prose about someone who has never seen To Kill A Mockingbird. These poems and novels and short stories, they will scatter into the wind. You will wonder if you’re wandering through the pages of some story you’ve never even read. There’s no way to know. And no way to erase it. Even if you leave, a part of you will always be left behind. 

If a writer falls in love with you, you can never die. 

I love this.

The image of women in advertising

I can’t recall who tweeted this link a few days ago (sorry!) but when I clicked and started viewing the video, many random thoughts flew through my consciousness. I’ll attempt to bring these thoughts together in a coherent whole:

The video discusses what advertising says about women, and how it’s most important what they look like. When Jean Kilbourne (the speaker in the video) mentions how advertising and the media show is the “ideal” women are expected to achieve, I agree whole-heartedly. It’s insane the number of images we see every day, in magazines, in movies and more, where the woman is drop-dead gorgeous, no flaws, and no pores, as Kilbourne points out. And of course, forget feeling guilty when you don’t like that, it just arouses feelings of shame within you. Ashamed of failing and of not being “beautiful”. Women base their entire self-worth on how they look, thinking no one will like them if they don’t fit that ideal. Heaven knows I felt like that constantly in my teenage years, where it was so bad I couldn’t even bear to look at myself in the mirror because I didn’t look anything like the women I’d see in advertisements every day (I still don’t!!!). While that constant sense of zero self-esteem doesn’t exist anymore for me, even now in depressed moments I feel butt-ugly. 

And in the video…making Jessica Alba look smaller?! Ummm she’s really small already! Leave some curves on the woman, for heaven’s sake!

Objectification of women is another issue. The video shows women’s bodies morphed onto alcohol bottles and cars; things like that. Self-esteem is one thing, but violence towards women is potentially a result of ads like these. Definitely not a direct causal link, as the video points out, turning a person into a “thing” is just the first step towards justifying violence towards him/her. A slight detour here, albeit related; this is a tweet I posted yesterday…read the article and tell me you’re not shocked by what lad’s mags are promoting:

A bit of Googling led me to this quote in an article also written by Kilbourne:

A recent Wall Street Journal survey of students in four Chicago-area schools found that more than half the fourth-grade girls were dieting and three-quarters felt they were overweight. One student said, “We don’t expect boys to be that handsome. We take them as they are.” Another added, “But boys expect girls to be perfect and beautiful. And skinny.”

What that student said? Yeah. Many women and men believe in that concept. So we spend a lot of time trying to fit that ideal that men often want in their partners. So listen up women: if the man tells you you’re fat and he’ll dump you if you don’t lose weight, YOU dump HIS sorry ass.

Looking good and feeling good about yourself is different from your body size. Yes, being obese is a health issue…I will not deny it, so it’s important to take care of youreslf and make sure you don’t face cholestrol issues or diabetes or something. But even if you have a few lumps here and there, even if your body isn’t that perfect hourglass…it doesn’t mean you’re not healthy! Focus on your health, then your body size.

Rant over.

EDIT: After reading my post, this is what a friend on Twitter posted, and I whole-heartedly agree with what she said.

Other posts on my blog related to women’s issues:

UAE National Day: 40 years on…

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The United Arab Emirates has been a part of my life since I can remember. But while I only moved here in 1989, my mother moved here with her family just 5 years after the country was formed.

When I asked her about it, this is what she said:

We came here in 1976 from Beirut. The war had broken out there and the first flight out was to Dubai. I still remember, we stayed in the Phoenicia Hotel in Al Nasr Square. On the opposite side was the Creek. Everything was empty, there weren’t many buildings around…the only place to eat in front of the hotel was the Chicken Tikka Inn where we would go quite a bit. When I got admission to school, we moved into a flat in what was the Al Ghurair Compound in Satwa, near the Dubai World Trade Centre, which was the only building around, the tallest building around. It faced what was then a two-lane road going all the way to Abu Dhabi.

For the first year, my father didn’t have a license, so when we wanted to go shopping in Bur Dubai, we would take a taxi there.”

I asked her about food options (of course I did):

We used to go to this place called the Picnic restaurant in Bur Dubai at the Ramada Hotel roundabout and eat shawarmas – it’s an intersection now but before it used to be a roundabout. We’d also get shawarmas from Deira, at a restaurant on the creek, just next to the Carlton Hotel; I don’t remember the name though. The Ravi restaurant in Satwa was there at that time too, although it was much smaller. We’d also get shawarmas from Tarbouche in Karama but on rare occasions because in Karama…there wasn’t much at the time. You know the rows of low buildings behind the Lulu Centre area, behind where Pumpy’s and Ginny’s is now…that was all that was there. Everything else was empty sandIn Bur Dubai, we’d go to India House restaurant for South Indian food. And eventually, on every Friday we would go to Hilton hotel next to DWTC for a buffet lunch.”

My Mom got married and moved away from Dubai in 1984, but returned in 1989 toting a two-and-a-half year-old me. Already there were so many changes, compared to what she had seen when she arrived. Karama was already bustling, there were more restaurants, but the DWTC was still the tallest building around and it was still two lanes going to Abu Dhabi! These are some pics from after I moved here:

All these pics were taken in the late 80s-early 90s.

Captions: DWTC, the tallest building around | Me with my dog Dinky in an area in Karama where now stands the Al Maskan Building | Jumeirah Beach Park…empty and so pristine (that’s me in red…naturally) | Hili Fun City was the place to be | Guess which bridge we’re standing at! | In Abu Dhabi

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A happy 40th National Day to the UAE and everyone here, and here’s to many more years of growth and prosperity. I leave you with a photograph of the Sheikh Zayed Road skyline, taken from the sea. Look at how we’ve grown…just look 🙂

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Going Pink

I first realized the word ‘cancer’ existed when I was 8. My paternal grandfather passed away because of it. Eventually I realized there was more than one kind of cancer. And sadly, I know the threat of breast cancer all too well. It has affected many women in my family…and that scares me no end. There are survivors yes, for which I am ever grateful…but there have also been losses.

It’s important for women all over the world to get themselves a mammography as frequently as possible, especially if they’re over 40-years-old and even more so if it runs in the family.

Anyway, there are a few things I’m going to point my readers to if you’re interested in contributing to breast cancer awareness in the UAE.

One is an initiative by Worood, where anyone can go to its Facebook page, click on the Pink Rose tab and share your messages with breast cancer patients in the UAE. Each of your messages will be attached to a pink rose, which will be sent to women across the UAE. An interesting initiative to bring a smile to people’s faces.

Another initiative I whole-heartedly support is one by my fellow food bloggers (read up on the consortium of UAE food bloggers).

Rajani (@RajaniMani) and Lin (@boozychef) will be supporting Safe and Sound AE by donating 10% of the sales generated from Pickle-in-d-Middle and Lin’s doggie treats to it So if you want to buy awesome pickles, or if you want to pamper your dog, you know where to go. Plus you’re donating to a worthy cause as well; definite win-win. Contact them for more info, or head over to the Ripe market, between 9.30am – 1pm at the Dubai Garden Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Paint the town pink y’all.

Edit: It is ironic that I’d left this post to be published today. I woke up to the news of Steve Jobs’ passing away and … was shocked. While it was not breast cancer (a form of pancreatic cancer), it’s still part of the same whole. The disease that is cancer. RIP.

Reading Space Design – Kosha by Claudio D’amore | Trendir

I WANT THIS!!!

Reading Space Design – Kosha by Claudio D’amorechair-kosha-claudio-damore-1.jpg

It was with great passion that Claudio D’amore created the Kosha chair we see here. With this chair, design and wellbeing are strongly connected. Essentially, Kosha is not jus a chair, but a space. More specifically, a reading space. Its precise ergonomic design allows for a seated retreat among your favorite literature. It’s almost like stepping into a special wooden vessel that promises ‘me time’ filled with relaxation and entertainment. This piece is waiting to be placed by a huge window in an open space, in a contemporary study or even in a garden. It is also waiting for its designated spots to be filled with books and for a lucky person to have a seat. If you can imagne yourself as that person, check out Kosha in more detail.

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#DxbTweepSpeak 1: @movie_mafia

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Twitter handle:
@movie_mafia

What does your bio say?
“My ideas and ideals are not ideas and ideals I’m supposed to hold as a girl from a certain part of the world. This might offend you. Oh, snap!”

Why is your Twitter handle @movie_mafia?
Well, originally it was ‘movie mania’. It was actually @eddydubai who recommended I go with the word mafia instead, since I was really into the mafia genre of movies.

What’s your favourite movie then?
The Big Lebowski.

Why are you anonymous?
This way I have more freedom in tweets. Since nobody knows me, they don’t know whom I am talking about; I can even talk about my personal opinions without people attributing it to me. I want to keep my Twitter life separate from my real life because I have a completely different persona in real life. A lot of us behave differently with different people, so Twitter is where I can really be myself without falling into the personality people think that I should have.

What’s your favourite animal?
I’m a huge animal person…I guess it would be…can I say big cat?

Favourite colour?
Red.

Favourite Disney movie?
The Lion King. I know most of the lines verbatim!

What phone do you have? 
BlackBerry Bold.

If you had to choose an alternative career…?
I used to want to be a director when I was younger but I never pursued that. I would rather watch movies than make them!

Are you a girly girl?
Not at all. I’m not like those girls who act ditzy. I’m not exactly serious, but I’m more grounded than the ditzy ones. I don’t like talking about make-up, shopping and shoes all the time – I like to talk about other things.

Have you met any tweeps off Twitter?
Just two!

What’s your dream car?
I would really like to drive a BMW…a Z4.

So I’ve heard you’re getting married soon?
Hahahahaha no! I’m not getting married in the near future… that’s a rumour I must take care of. It’s definitely not true.

 

Who’s next in #DxbTweepSpeak? A Dubai-based ace photographer. Keep an eye out…

Going abroad to study? – Part 1

It’s that time of the year again. When younglings (no I haven’t been watching Star Wars lately, although I should) head off to greener, often colder shores (this cold bit applies if you’re living in the Middle East) to pursue their education. I remember all too well how it was for me two years ago – where has the time gone? – and I’m suddenly filled with the need to share what I experienced, and more often than not, learned.

Remember, I’m talking about my experience in going to the UK, so some things may not apply to other countries.

1. Got that stamp in your passport?

I’m hoping by now you’ve already gotten your visa sorted, if not actually having that stamp in your passport, but at least an appointment with whoever you need to have an appointment with to get it done. For the UK visas, it normally takes anywhere between 2 weeks to a month, which also depends on the number of applications that need to be processed. August is peak time for this because UK universities start their new academic year sometime in September. If you’re filling out a paper form, photocopy the original and fill out that form first. Recheck it to make sure you haven’t made any mistakes and then only fill out the original, precious, all-important form. You do NOT want to make a mistake in that one. Submit all the documents the main formand the appendix forms (yes, there used to be appendix forms last time I checked, so make sure there is/isn’t one) ask for. If you’re not sure whether a certain document is needed, take it anyway. It’s better to be over-prepared than found wanting, as it reflects badly on you. When it comes to the UK student visa, don’t be alarmed with the wait and the fact that they don’t tell you whether you got the visa or not. Settle yourself when your passport is sent back to you, and calmly look through its pages as opposed to what I did: tearing open the envelope frantically, flipping through the pages like a deranged woman, then screaming when you see the visa stamped firmly in your passport, sealing your fate for the next year (or two. Or three. However long your course is).

2. Mentally preparing yourself

Legally, you’re ready to go. Mentally? At 22, it was the first time I was going abroad, leaving my parents, and staying on my own. I was terrified and excited at the same time. Read up on anything about the university, the accomodation and the course. It helps give you an idea of what you need to look out for. For example, I think my room size was listed as being 12 square metres. I have no concept of size…so how could I make sense of that? Easy. Go to IKEA. No, I haven’t gone mad. The display rooms in IKEA list the size of the room, so all I did was find a room that was listed as being the same as my prospective dorm room, and I just went and stood in it for a bit. My Mom thought I was a bit cuckoo, but it helps. It gives you an idea of the space you’ll be living in for the next (few) year(s). Culture shock is another aspect if you’ve never been to the place where you’re going before. Again, read and research. I cannot emphasise that enough. Another thing is: use Facebook. I found my future flatmate on a Facebook group for my accomodation and it helped to connect with her before I flew out there. Now we’re tight friends, and I’m all the happier for it.

3. Flying out there

Hah. Good luck moving your life to a new place with a 20kg (or 30kg if you’re flying Emirates, which I was. Woohoo!) limit. I cheated. I took my 30kgs and a few days later my father arrived because luckily, he was in UK on a business trip. Now for those whose parents aren’t going on business trips that coincide with the time you move there…what can be done? Not much, I’m sorry to say. Except prioritise what you need for your luggage on the flight, and if there are any other essentials, ship them over.

4. How do I find where I have to go?! *clutches hair in agony*

I was studying in the lovely city of Sheffield, and I flew from Dubai to Manchester. Now, did I really want to take a train from the airport to Sheffield, then tackle a cab in a strange, new land, where many people seemed to call me ‘duck’ and ‘love’? I opted for the best service a university can offer (if you’re in London, then don’t bother with this…you just get off at Heathrow, having pre-booked a black cab – this website is awesome – and you’re okay) … the Meet-and-Greet service.

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We were received at the airport by student reps, who then guided us to a massive coach (you’re in UK now, it’s not bus anymore) where the helpful driver effortlessly threw my over-sized bag into the luggage hold. Then I was treated to a lovely drive from Manchester to Sheffield through the Snake Pass.

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Once we got to Sheffield, we got off at the Student Union, where people living in the same accomodation areas were bundled off together. Once you find your accomodation, it’s a piece of cake.

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Except for the lugging-the-luggage-on-your-own bit.

5. Actually inside the place where you’ll live in a strange, new land

The dorm room!!! I’d booked a room in a flat with six rooms, all of which were en-suite (a fact that gets me a ribbing even now…apparently it’s posh to book an en-suite as opposed to sharing. But I can’t share my toilet unless I know/trust someone…!!!). I walked into my 12-metre-square room, took one look at the bareness of it all, felt alone, collapsed on the mattress and sobbed my heart out. This is what not to do.

It’s my second Twirthday! And @HishamWyne is my godfather.

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I got a tweet at midnight from @TwBirthday saying:”@DevinaDivecha Happy 2nd TwBirthday! You’ve been around since 24 July 2009! http://twbirthday.com/DevinaDivecha/“.

I clicked on the link and couldn’t stop laughing because it said Hisham (@HishamWyne) is my godfather. I chuckled as I remembered him being the first person I followed on Twitter.

Memories flooded as I remembered what prompted me, two years ago, to register for an account with Twitter. Oddly and possibly embarrassingly enough, it started with American Idol. And also with Time Out Dubai. How do the two merge?

I was a fan of the show when Simon Cowell was sniping at the contestants, when Paula Abdul was always nice, and Randy Jackson could out-dawg anyone in the world. And I loved knowing backstage information, so when I found out host Ryan Seacrest was using something called Twitter to spread information about the show and other celeb news, I started checking his Twitter profile.

When I was lucky enough to land an internship with Time Out Dubai in the summer of 2009 for almost three months, I was ecstatic. Among other things, I was working on the Time In page, and also giving them news about things happening around Dubai and tweets as well.

Twitter was a godsend during those months, I tell ya. After a few weeks of looking at Ryan Seacrest’s profile and noticing someone called Alexander McNabb, I decided to sign up.

And gave away my godfather spot to Hisham Wyne.

After that it was a whirlwind ride. I got into the spirit of tweeting, and finding out about Dubai events and interesting people I would have never met otherwise.

I found out about the first GeekFest Dubai through Twitter, attended it and did a short write-up about it for Time Out Dubai. First person I met there was Mita Srinivasan (@mita56). I almost attended a tweetup at Bert’s Cafe, Greens, organized by Akanksha Goel, only to not go because it was far too close to my departure date to the UK and I had too much to do. I groaned and moaned when I missed all the GeekFests after that. I found out about the wonderful TwitBookClub, hosted by Nathan Fillion-nut Anastasia (@TDAllonsy) and attended their meetings in spirit. When I was lonely in Sheffield on cold nights, I’d tune in to the student radio @CampusRadioME founded by Muhammed Ali Jamadar (@MaliZomg) and Ritesh Jeswani (@whitecrayon) and dedicated songs to people I loved and people I didn’t. I attended tweetups in my vacations, organized by @chiragnd, had epiphanies in front of @NikhilSoneja and inspite of meeting Rami (@cubex) far too many times, have always had him ask me who I am. I’ve had random arguments with Rupert Bumfrey (@rupertbu) about how I love Sheffield and he thinks it’s a bit meh, as kids these days say. I met complete stangers in UK off Twitter – it included taking a train to Manchester to meet Khadijah Rawat (@RawatCentral), and standing buffered up in the cold outside the journalism department in Sheffield to greet @eddydubai emerging from a black cab, only then to take a train a few weeks later to where he lived to get into his car, hoping against hope he wasn’t a deranged lunatic fattening me up (quite literally; we ate a lot that day) for the kill. And when I came back to Dubai, I threw myself into the Twitterati world like I never could before. I was given a chance to speak at the Dubai Twestival by PK Gulati (@pkgulati), attended @DaddyBird‘s and @kangayayaroo‘s Dubai farewell, and only yesterday, met new-to-Twitter tweeps Tanya (@tanyatourani) and Karan (@kdoggydogg) who have asked me (ME!) for advice on getting more active on the Dubai Twitter scene.

The people, or rather, tweeps, I’ve mentioned above are just a small snippet of the life, the freedom and the mingling of cultures that Twitter has given me. And for that, I shall remain eternally grateful.

Note: If you’re not mentioned here, I can only apologize…every one I follow has given me something to treasure. I love you all.