x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Teen life: Diwali, Halloween and charity: enlightenment in diversity

The good, the bad and the early: a hectic week in the life of a teenager in pursuit of a well-earned rest.

It's been a busy, exciting week for us teenagers. Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, has come and gone amid a flurry of presents, noise and eating. There was that raucous Halloween party, and, in an overwhelming display of support for the breast cancer research and treatment, the BurJuman Safe and Sound Pink Walkathon in Dubai. In short, we've had the excuse to have a laugh and make supreme fools of ourselves, as is the case in every celebratory occasion, and we won't be seeking any more excitement for a while.

It is a sign of Dubai's vibrant multicultural society that some of the first people to wish me a happy Diwali were from countries as varied as the UK, Hungary, the Philippines and New Zealand. Diwali is usually characterised by a continuous thunderstorm of crackers going off and displays as spectacular as if someone had fed millions of fire-dwelling salamanders generous helpings of Dr Filibuster's fireworks (that's a Harry Potter reference, for readers who haven't yet discovered the sole reason to be alive in this sad, sad world). While UAE laws put firecrackers firmly out of the picture, that doesn't mean we can't have just as great a time.

We have family friends visiting us from the United States, and between the three of us greedy teenagers, we had downed four boxes of sweets and assorted chocolates in the couple of days leading up to Diwali, as the gifts started pouring in. Someone sent us a massive carton of traditional fried sweets, and I've been smearing on the acne cream in copious amounts ever since, with little success.

Bollywood buffs received a different sort of present this year: the premiere of the newest Shah Rukh Khan movie, RA. One, in Dubai on Diwali eve. "Shah Rukh Khan was there at the premiere and he touched me!" Asha gasped to me as she handed me a festive box of choco dates, scarcely believing it herself. "So I had my hand out and then he brushed my pinkie when he walked past and I nearly fainted!" She has now solemnly vowed never to wash her pinkie finger again.

By stark contrast with the twinkling diya oil lamps of Diwali, Halloween was a darker affair - think plenty of tasteful fake blood - and as a result is always a teenage favourite. As the delightful Severus Snape, I was pretty sure my sweeping cloak, wand (a paintbrush), fake hooked nose and greasy curtains of parted hair did the trick. A corked flask "borrowed" from the science department at school, labelled with a professional-looking "Eye of Newt Potione" (I was a potions professor, see?) added that extra element of je ne sais quoi, I think. Everyone else evidently didn't agree, falling under the absurd impression that I was a mere witch with a bad-hair day. The "Potione" didn't have the effect I had been hoping for, either, as I had to keep explaining that the "typo" kindly and repeatedly drawn to my attention was nothing of the sort; it was meant to give the word an ancient, faraway makeover.

A considerable number of people turned up as witches, cats and devils in a no doubt genius stroke of imagination and creativity, although to be fair, there were construction workers, Smurfs and a Jimi Hendrix, too. The party itself was like any other, except I couldn't recognise anyone because they were all dressed up and the only lights were strobes. Embarrassingly enough, I was forced to keep yelling things like "Are you Callie or Tom or Lara, can't see your face ..." and "What? What? Speak up!" because you couldn't hear anything above the throbbing music. Didn't exactly end up as the life and soul of the party.

I would have loved to say I got up the next morning, raring to go as I set off for the Pink Walkathon, eager to make a difference. I didn't. Having left the party at midnight, getting to a mall at half past five in the morning as part of the Volunteers in Dubai group took a Herculean effort, although a quick espresso fixed that.

I was manning one of the T-shirt stalls and it felt glorious to rally around against cancer in a wonderful atmosphere of camaraderie as we handed out pink shirts and hats.

Lola Lopez, the founder of Volunteers in Dubai, and Adele, our team leader, ensured things ran as smoothly as clockwork. The 10,000-strong crowd of people - and their beribboned dogs - were soon resplendent in pink, moving in a massive slow body through the roads of Dubai, blocking traffic, smelling strongly of sun cream and standing united against a killer disease.

And while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I'm just going to hang up my freebie pink hat now and get some much-needed shut-eye.


The writer is a 16-year-old student in Dubai

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