Autism Rocks puts on a spectacular Diwali show

I’d never been to a proper Diwali bash before, so it was with great anticipation that I headed off with Mrs Kane to the glittering environs of the Palazzo Versace hotel in Dubai last Friday for an early celebration of the Hindu festival of light.

The event was being hosted by the Indian businessman Sanjay Shah and his wife, Usha. But it was no ordinary Diwali event, as I soon learnt. This one was being held in honour of the Autism Rocks organisation, which Mr Shah set up to raise awareness of the disorder that affects millions of children and teenagers around the world, leading to communication and learning difficulties.

Autism is a devastating illness for the sufferers, of course, but also for the parents, who discover at about the age of two that their precious child has a life-changing condition that will require specialist care and treatment for many years, with no proven cure.

The Shahs went through this trauma when their son Nikhil showed symptoms at an early age.

Their reaction was to provide for him the best support and care, and to try to help others who might find themselves in the same position but who might not be so well equipped to deal with it. The result was the Autism Rocks Support Centre in Dubai Healthcare City, a much-needed facility as autism is not recognised for insurance-funded care in the UAE.

Their other reaction was to launch Autism Rocks, an international celebration of music, to raise awareness of the problem. Autism Rocks plays in the Shahs’ native London and in their adopted Dubai, and has staged some of the biggest names in rock and pop.

Next year in Dubai, Autism Rocks will pull off perhaps its biggest coup, with the reunited Guns N’ Roses rock band playing at its arena on Al Ain road.

I doubt, though, that even frontman singer Axl Rose and guitarist Slash will beat the show put on at the Versace.

It was a spectacular multicoloured celebration of Indian culture, with an exuberant dance show by the Maayavi Dance Drama Concept, followed by live performances from singers Himesh Reshammiya and Kanika Kapoor.

When the whole ensemble got on stage for the rousing finale, the atmosphere was so infectious I was almost tempted to join the boisterous crowd of diners who jumped up to celebrate with them. Mrs Kane advised against it, remarking that an elderly gent in a dinner jacket would look just slightly out of place in such a gathering.

And indeed we did look strange, the westerners in the audience who followed the dinner dress formalities. A mixture of diplomats, former military types and businessmen tottering around the Versace ballroom looking very uncomfortable in black tie and cuffs, while the Indian men looked super-cool in formal Nehru-type jackets. It was less noticeable with the women, who always dress colourfully, of course, but even the most glamorous European lady found it hard to match the eye-dazzling colours and jewellery of the Indian women.

In the middle of it all, before the night got too late, young Nikhil also seemed to be enjoying himself in the kaleidoscope of colours. The lad, now seven years old, earlier took the stage to show off his arithmetical skills, to the obvious delight of his parents.

He was self-confident and assured, proof that with the right care and support, and the loving attention of your parents and siblings, you can overcome anything.

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