I got to celebrate Diwali in India as the Westin Hotel threw a bash with drinks and fireworks for guests. The very detailed decorations started going up a few days before the big event:
The week of Diwali in the office at work was much like it is Christmas week in the US – empty. Most people take time off, visit with family and there are lots of festive decorations.
India is very different from the U.S. but the only thing in my entire trip that caught me off guard was the use of the Swastika. At first I saw someone wearing a T-Shirt with a Swastika, then I saw the above floral design and so I asked my coworkers. I’d heard of this before, even though it clearly didn’t register, but the right-facing Swastika is a religious symbol in Hinduism, where as the symbol I was used to seeing – in modern culture, movies, etc. is the counter-clockwise symbol of the Natzi party. Wikipedia has an extensive article on the subject here.
Overall I enjoyed my brief 15 or so days in Pune. I’d love to go back, without the work requirements and travel around to many of the other states. My experience traveling to Pune has to be like someone coming from outside of the US to Dallas (9th largest city in the US) – you can say you’ve been but you really haven’t seen much.