Gina writes:

Last Friday was Diwali, the festival of lights. The Hindu significance has something to do with a god and goddess returning home from battle and the celebration marks their return with lights. Lights of all kinds -- candles, oil lamps, strings of electric lights, and fireworks (or "crackers" as they're called here). We went to the home of our friends (Bijayani, Babee, and Sumita) to celebrate.

The three girls had worked with their neighbors for a few hours earlier in the day to create paintings on the homes' entryways with rice powder, colored chalk powder, and flowers.

There was an unexpected all-day power cut on Friday, which of course had its frustrations. However, it also meant that all light that we could see as we viewed our neighborhood from our friends' roof was from thousands of tiny oil lamps. Beautiful and surreal.

We saw A LOT of crackers -- big ones in the air, bottle rockets, fountains, wheels, sparklers, even palm leaves wrapped around gunpowder.

Eventually, we set off our own crackers.

Here's Corey using a special stick to light the palm leaf gunpowder bomb. Crazy man he is.

The evening ended with a delicious meal prepared by the girls. Interestingly, Babee and Sumita fast every Friday, so they were unable to eat the food that they'd spent so much time preparing! Now that's devotion!

Note: A related article on the TIME magazine site discusses the mixed reaction to Obama's visit to India on Friday. "[In Mumbai], the markets were empty on Saturday - the day after Diwali, and the day of the President's arrival - at a time that would normally witness the year's biggest orgy of consumerism. Bursting of firecrackers was banned in some areas on Saturday and Sunday - which is like banning Christmas trees on Christmas." He might be making progress on the international relations front, but his visit had negative consequences for a lot of people just wanting to celebrate their favorite holiday.