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Shyam Mohapatra, FIA president
Indian Americans in several Florida cities will be celebrating India’s 59th Independence Day this month. Here are some of the major cities, which are holding the events:


More than 2,500 people are expected to attend Indian Independence Day festivities on Sunday, Aug. 20 in Tampa. The chief guest for the annual event organized by the Federations of Indian Associations (FIA) will be Congressman Gus Bilirakis.

“Local artists, young and adults, will present cultural performances on the stage during the celebration,” said Shyam Mohapatra, president of FIA. “Later on in the day, we are bringing the Aniruddha Band from Atlanta for a performance.”

Aniruddha Band from Atlanta

Indian Americans in several Florida cities will be celebrating India's 59th Independence Day this month. Here are some of the major cities, which are holding the events:


More than 2,500 people are expected to attend Indian Independence Day festivities on Sunday, Aug. 20 in Tampa. The chief guest for the annual event, organized by the Federations of Indian Associations (FIA), will be Ambassador R.S. Jassal, who is the Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Washington, D.C. Other invited guests include Mike and Gus Bilirakis.

"Local artists, young and adults, will present cultural performances on the stage during the celebration," said Shyam Mohapatra, president of FIA. "Later on in the day, we are bringing the Aniruddha Band from Atlanta for a performance."

Bharat Seva, community and Youth Talent awards also will be presented during the free event, which will begin at 11 a.m. at India Cultural Center. Booths selling Indian food, clothing, arts and crafts, and DVDs will be set up in the adjoining Lotus Hall.

For more information, call Mohapatra at (813) 312-4248 or click on


The South Florida Chapter of the Association of Indians in America (AIA) will host the Independence Day celebration from noon to 3 p.m. on Aug. 20 at the Omni Auditorium (BCC North Campus), 1000 Coconut Creek Blvd, Coconut Creek.

For the third year in succession, the celebration will include South Florida social, religious and cultural Indian organizations. This is a joint venture, with more than 25 local Indian organizations, which will feature a celebration of India's Independence and showcase the motto of "Pride in our Indian Heritage."

The event will be held indoors. Parking and admission to the event is free.

"We bring to the local community a joint celebration of this historic date in South Florida, and take pride in exhibiting our unified diversity", says Sabiha (Saja) Khan, president of the South Florida Chapter of AIA.

This family-oriented event will feature a cultural program with a patriotic flavor.

Also featured will be a mini Indian Bazaar, with vendors exhibiting and selling Indian arts, crafts, jewelry and apparel. For the food lovers, local Indian restaurants will offer a mouth-watering selection of delicious Indian cuisine. An outdoor food court will provide ample seating.

For information, contact Sabiha (Saja) Khan at (954) 577-9330, Joyce Campos at (954) 752-7573 or Kitty Singh (954)752-7573, or click on


In the east, the Indian Association of the Space Coast will celebrate Independence Day on Aug. 12 at Cocoa Expo Sports Center in Cocoa. The 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. event will feature cultural dances, music and food.

For information, call Smita Patel at (321) 752-6230, Manhar Shah at (321) 727-3932 or e-mail


The Indian Cultural Society in Jacksonville will hold an Independence Day event at 3 p.m. on Aug. 20 at Mandarin Middle School.

For more information, e-mail


The Hindu Society of Central Florida in Casselberry/Orlando at 1994 Lake Drive has scheduled Independence Day celebrations on Aug. 13 on temple premises. For more information, call the temple at (407) 699-5277 or check out

August 2004 issue of Khaasbaat

Diehard Khaas Baat readers will remember the cover of the first issue of this newspaper we started in August 2004 originally for the Indian American community in Tampa Bay. On the eve of our two-year anniversary, we are excited to bring you a publication that has continued to grow to include the entire state.

This month, we have added four more pages packed with news about the Indian American community in the Sunshine State.

On this anniversary, we want to thank our columnists. We are fortunate to have the contributions of talented writers – primarily from our local community who are all highly qualified in their respective fields. Thank you to our regular contributors from Orlando and Jacksonville for keeping us apprised of their local events. We welcome more such efforts from every major Florida city.

We are proud that Khaas Baat has become a trusted source for comprehensive coverage of news and events involving the Indian American community.

Khaas Baat can be found at your local South Asian grocery store and also is mailed free to the homes and offices of thousands of subscribers across the state. And last but not the least, a big thanks to our many advertisers without whom we would not be able to fund the operations of this publication.

If you would like to receive a copy of our newspaper every month, please e-mail us at Thanks for your support.


Brahmachari Prabodh Chaitanya
Story provided by Chinmaya Mission

Since the dawn of civilization, man has always sought answers to two questions: How to live a full and happy life, and how to die gracefully and with minimal sorrow or suffering. These were the questions that were put forth by the emperor Parikshit -- the grandson of Arjuna -- to the great sage Shukadeva, son of Veda Vyasa Rishi.

The answers of the sage form Shrimad Bhagavatam, the 18th Purana, a masterpiece of spiritual literature. The first canto of this text is the subject of a five-day series of talks by Brahmachari Prabodh Chaitanya in Tampa from Aug. 13-17 and in Orlando from Aug. 18-20. Prabodhji is a resident acharya of the Chinmaya Mission’s San Jose Center. The Tampa and Orlando discourses are organized by the Chinmaya Mission of Tampa Bay and the Chinmaya Mission of Orlando respectively.

Shrimad Bhagavatam often confused by the common man with the Bhagavat Geeta has two things in common, its hero Shri Krishna and its author Shri Veda Vyasa. This purana covers not only the glories of the Lord, but gives an in-depth exposition of the origin of the universe, the nature of the Self and the joy of being immersed in devotion.

The lectures will be held from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 13-17 at the Hindu Temple of Florida hall (5509 Lynn Road), followed by Mahaprasad. The Orlando lectures, varying in times each day, will be Aug. 18-20 at the Chinmaya Mission of Orlando, 1221 Florida Road.

Prabodhji's style of teaching is in the inimitable Chinmaya style where a difficult concept is brought down to a user-friendly level for all to understand and bring into practice.

As a special benefit for Ramayan lovers, he will be taking the Sunder Kand from the Tulsi Ramayan at Chinmaya Prasad in Lutz (Tampa Bay) from 10.a.m. to 11.30 a.m. Aug. 14-17.

For more information on the Tampa discourse, call Ira Lalwani at (813) 909-4142 or click on For details on the Orlando talks, call Ila Solanki at (407) 389-8948 or check out


Brahmotsav puja
Story provided by Hindu Society of Central Florida

More than 500 people gathered at the Hindu Society of Central Florida July 7-9 to celebrate the Brahmotsav pujas and also the first anniversary of the dedication of the new Casselberry/Orlando temple.

The first puja began at 6 a.m. to invoke the blessings from Sri Ganesh. Each day, several elaborate religious pujas were conducted to the specifications of the Agama sashtras.

Temple priests Sri Narayan Bhatter and Sri Jayesh Pandya performed the ancient rituals. The temple was filled with the sounds of chanting in Sanskrit and a heavenly aroma of incense and sandalwood.

Srinivas Jaragula, president of the executive committee, thanked the volunteers, “without whom this event would not have been a success.” A group of volunteers assembled the essential component of this event – the massive and beautifully carved 1,500-pound Rath/chariot imported from India, while others worked on making garlands and stringing mango leaves for decorations.

Rathotsavam was the highlight for many who attended, almost the entire -- about 500 -- took part in pulling the Rath around the temple as well as the community hall.

Well-known local artistes Dr. Vasundhara Iyengar, Vaishali and Vaibhav Joshi performed a wide range of Indian vocal and dance styles. Anusha Ravishankar especially designed her two-hourlong dance drama to honor the deities of the temple.



The late Dr. A.N.V. Rao is all smiles on his 70th birthday as wife, Sarala, to his left, Madhavi Sekharam, extreme left, and Kotha Sekharam, right, and several students look on.

“So many people have helped me in my life, some I know and some I don’t even know. I would like to give back at least 1 percent of what I received.”

And Dr. A.N.V. Rao of Tampa did. Indeed, the help and encouragement provided by the late University of South Florida professor who died on June 26 is priceless.

Dr. Rao, as everyone called this humble, modest and down-to-earth person, had only one philosophy of life. “Helping others. That’s my service to mankind,” he once told me. He looked up to Mahatma Gandhi and Buddha.

“Dr. Rao was an incredibly kind and selfless colleague,” said Professor Marcus McWaters, chair of the Mathematics Department at USF, where the Andhra Pradesh-born worked since 1971. “His two main interests in life were his family and helping others. He was a dedicated advocate for his students, his colleagues and his discipline. His contributions were many, varied and priceless, and his legacy will long be treasured by all who knew him.”

McWaters’ thoughts are seconded by Renu Khator, provost and senior vice president at USF. “Dr. Rao was the humblest, kindest and the most selfless person one would ever meet,” said Khator. “In my 20 years at USF, I have seen Dr. Rao being held in the highest esteem by his colleagues for his scholarly work, personal integrity and selfless collegiality. He was loved, admired and respected by faculty, staff and students alike.”

It was Dr. Rao who founded the academic Sunday School (Gurukulam of Tampa Bay) almost 23 years ago. “Thousands of students passed through Dr. A.N.V. Rao's helping hands,” said Kotha Sekharam, who manages the school with his wife, Madhavi Sekharam. “With his experience with Sunday school, Dr. Rao started another teaching program (Urban Scholars Outreach Program) for disadvantaged minority youths on Saturdays. So, he worked for all seven days a week.” He also was founding president of the Hindu Temple of Florida in Tampa.

Dr. Rao was instrumental in the establishment of Students of India Association (SIA) at USF in 1984. “A few years ago, when some of the SIA members lost fellowships due to budget cuts, Dr. Rao initiated a grocery program through Gurukulam,” said Sekharam. “Under this program, Gurukulam and SIA worked together in identifying needy students and provided essential grocery, including fresh vegetables so that they could have at least some food to eat.”

Along with Dr. Rao’s friends and family, the Gurukulam is working to establish an academic scholarship under the late professor’s name at USF. The goal is $100,000.

Sekharam assured me that Gurukulam will continue operations after Dr. Rao's death. Those interested in the Gurukulam may contact Sekharam at (813) 792-2646 or e-mail

“Dr. Rao could equate to any student at any level, whether fourth, fifth or 12th grade and communicate effectively in solving problems,” said Sekharam. “On top of teaching, he encouraged every student to bring out his or her full potential. He made complex mathematical problems interesting and easy to work with. Probably for this reason, all of his past students admire him and love him.”

Rumila Das, who will begin senior year at King High School in Tampa, had been attending Gurukulam since first grade. “He was a great mentor, not just a regular teacher, always helpful to all students,” she said. “He also was a funny person who used to crack jokes and make us all laugh.”

Another student, Bharathi Subramaniam, recalled how Dr. Rao would answer any questions with a smile on his face. “He was more than happy to assist us students,” she said.

Dr. Rao had a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Madras and a master’s in the same subject from Pune. He also earned a master’s in math from Marathwada University. He worked as an assistant professor for electrical engineering in Aurangabad before moving to the United States in 1967 for further studies.

He earned a master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Rhode Island and then a doctorate in mathematics from the same university. He wrapped up post-doctoral work at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia where his specialty was in statistics. In 1971, Dr. Rao moved to Tampa to work as assistant professor of math at USF. Nine years later, he became a full professor of math. He is survived by his wife, Sarala, and two sons, Krishna and Sanjiv.

Every one of us will miss Dr. Rao. Here’s an example of how great a man he was. When I had asked him once, “Dr. Rao, what do you like least about your job?”

“Nothing,” he replied.


Anu Kotha, a past student of Gurukulam, is planning to organize Gurukulam Alumni Association. A central forum of past students will help inspire current students of Gurukulam and also help all by sharing experiences and opportunities in their field of specialization. To make this happen, Anu needs email contacts of those students. Since most of the families may live in this area, parents may forward their contact information to


Indian students are getting good recognition at science fairs. Participation in Science Fair helps students in critical and scientific thinking, collecting data, organizing data and presentation in front of audience. Harnessing these skills at this age will open new avenues and help in their careers. Participation in the fairs needs guidance, tools and hard work and unfortunately these are not available to all. Gurukulam has a few volunteers who have taken their kids to international levels and they are available to guide other students. Those who are interested may contact Madhavi Sekharam at



“In Trinidad, the best compliment a cook can hope for is to be told he or she has ‘sweet hands.’ It means the person is so talented in the kitchen that anything he or she makes – from a sandwich to a seven-course meal – is like manna from the gods.”

That explains the title of New York-based author Ramin Ganeshram’s new book “Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad & Tobago.” The 250-page book with colorful photographs by Jean-Paul Vellotti (published by Hippocrene Books,, $29.95) is a journey through a rich and eclectic heritage of the Caribbean nation. A British colony from 1779 until 1962, during those years Trinidad and Tobago’s population grew to include East Indian and Chinese indentured servants who works in the sugar plantations alongside former African slaves. Trinidadian food is marked by the blending of these cultures.
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Red Chilies

Red Chilies Indian Cuisine in Jacksonville was recently destroyed in a fire, which has been ruled as arson by the authorities.

The $500,000 damage to the new restaurant, which employed 20 people, hasn’t deterred its owner Bikkumanla Srinivas from looking for avenues to reopen. “We want to try to rebuild Red Chilies,” he said. Despite the damage, the restaurant has been offering food at the Hindu Society of North East Florida, Orange Park/Jacksonville temple cafeteria. Red Chilies is serving dosas and other snacks between 11:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday and during important holidays.

“On behalf of Hindu Society of North East Florida, we extend our heartfelt sympathies to the owners and employees of the restaurant,” said Dr. Uma Eyyunni on behalf of the temple. “We have included them in our prayers during the Maha Shanti Havan performed at our temple. We wish them a speedy recovery and hope the restaurant will start serving food soon.”

The temple is at 714 Park Ave., Orange Park. For information, call (904) 269-1155 or click on

Story provided by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh

The Hindu Society of America will hold the first-ever Hindu Sangam on Sept. 16 in Tampa.

The event will feature a diverse venue, with something for every member of the Hindu family without an entry fee. Hundreds of students will kick off the event with a massive Ganesh pooja. Every participant will receive a Ganesh idol with which they can participate in the ceremony.

For adults, there will be discussions on creating a proposal for a state-wide Hindu Holiday and a city-wide Hindu Day of Service. The finale will include speeches and performances by Swami Aksharanand, Ravi Kumar Iyer and Satyanarayan Morya. There also will be cultural dance performances, shopping opportunities, games, prizes and food available through out the day.

The Hindu Sangam is a joint effort of many like-minded Hindu organizations throughout United States and nearly 10 Hindu Sangams will be taking place around the country. The 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tampa event at Sickles High School is being coordinated by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Hindu Students Council of University of South Florida, Hindu Temple of Florida, Federation of Indian Associations, Gujurati Samaj, Hindu University of America, various temples and many more.

If you or your organization would like volunteer, call Braham Agarwal at (407) 352-2889, Nainan Desai at (813) 931-7442 or Yashwant Belsare at (863) 838-3636.


About 80 people attended a India-US Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida (IUCC) meeting July 18 at Sam Snead's restaurant in MetroWest (Orlando). Summitry Integrated Resources Inc. CEO Niranjan Kamdar gave a discussion of the newly designed business plan for the chamber.

With input from the steering committee such as Braham Aggrawal, Anil Deshpande, Sharad Shah, Suri Vyas and Sharad Mehta, Kamdar presented the goals and strategy of the IUCC for the upcoming year.

The audience was broken down into small groups to suggest new ways and means to achieve the objective of increasing the membership and making the group relevant to the needs of the Indian business and professional community. A lot of emphasis was placed on attracting younger members and capitalizing on the experience of seasoned business people in the group. Among the recommendations made was to form alliances with similar groups such as the Indo US Chamber of Commerce in Tampa and Jacksonville

The IUCC promises to be a "flat organization," Kamdar emphasized that "all members would be expected to be active particiapants with a voice in the planning and execution of the goals of the group." The design of the committees includes special groups for young professionals and women, and the restructuring plans to address a wide range of programs such as mentoring, lobbying, business education, etc., to enhance networking opportunities and support for all members.

The sumptuous dinner was sponsored by local area businessmen Kal Patel and Tino Patel.

For more information, contact or



Opening a new store or restaurant? Expanding or relocating? Has your business won an award or a mention in your local newspaper? We want to hear from you as Khaas Baat kicks off yet another new column to meet the rising needs of businesses and our readers. Call Nitish S. Rele at (813) 758-1786 or e-mail us at


Malani Jewelers, which has been serving Georgia for the last 10 years, will be opening at its new location in Tampa before Aug. 15.

The 1,500-square-foot store will offer 22-carat gold, precious-stone jewelry, a diamond collection, antique gold and watches such as Rado and Movado. “We get 20 percent of our clientele from the Florida area, including Tampa and Orlando,” says owner Nooruddin Bhalwani. “So, it makes perfect sense to open the Tampa store so we can cater to this heavy demand from West Central Florida customers.”

A native of Hyderabad, India, Bhalwani comes from a family of business people. It was his uncle Ishe Malani along with Ismail Malani who started the Atlanta store over a decade ago. “We are proud of the quality service we offer,” he says. There will be six sales people in the Tampa store at 2367 E. Fowler Ave. (in the Apna Bazar and Mirch Masala plaza on Fowler Avenue).

Open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. except Tuesdays, the store can be reached at (813) 866-4653 (GOLD), via e-mail at or check out


India Grill in Sunrise was recently reviewed by the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “India Grill offers a menu that competes with itself for your attention – not that I’m complaining,” wrote restaurant reviewer Judith Stocks. “It’s an exciting change of pace offering vegetarian, Mughlai and Indo-Chinese fare along with Halal meats. Connoisseurs will appreciate the deft handling of complex spicing and a kitchen that means business on heat levels.”

The 49-seat restaurant is at 8438 W. Oakland Park Blvd. in Sunrise. For information, call (954) 578-7775.


Shri Ganesh
All paths lead to the House of Shri Ganesh in Tampa. As they should. Open earlier this year, the store offers a variety of murtis, musical instruments, all pooja items, CDs, DVDs and Indian fashion clothing, including wedding accessories and fresh flower malas.

“We also do special orders, layaway and shipping,” says co-owner Sunil Persaud.

House of Shri Ganesh is at 11311 N. Nebraska Ave., inside the International Flea Market at Fowler and Nebraska avenues. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call (813) 579-8205 or click on


Several of our readers have been calling in to ask about Hindi and South Indian film schedules in Florida. Here’s the answer. Just click on or call (813) 781-5888 for more information.

Stories provided by Sanatan Mandir

Sanatan Mandir in Tampa will celebrate Janmastami on Aug. 16. This auspicious occasion will be once again graced by Acharya Mridul Shastryji, who will conduct 108 Pothi Bhagwat Katha, which is a first for Tampa Bay.

Bhagwat Katha will start on Aug. 13 and will end with Pothi Maha Puran and 108 Kundi Havan on Aug. 20. Nand Janma Utsav will be celebrated on Aug. 16 from 7 p.m.

As in past years, his team of accomplished musicians will accompany Mridul Shastriji, and once again Tampa Bay will become alive with chanting of Bhagwat Katha. During this eight-day Katha Goverdan Puja, Annkut will be held on Aug. 17, and Rukmini /Tulsi vivah on Aug. 18.

Individuals and their families can sponsor all events. Pundit Rajan Bhatt, resident pundit at Sanatan Mandir, said that taking part in 108 Pothi Bhagwat Katha is a rare privilege.

Senior citizens who need a ride to the mandir at 311 E. Palm Ave. in Tampa can call Kanti Bakarania at (813) 653-4981.

For information and sponsorships, call Chandrakant Patel at (813) 340-5505, Kaushik Joshi at (813) 298-5037 or Sanatan Mandir Pundit Rajan Bhatt at (813) 221- 4482.


Fifty one girls and Didi Maa from Vatsalya Gram in Vrindavan will be traveling to the Indo-Pak Wagha border to tie Rakhis on the wrists of the brave Indian soldiers. This moving and pioneering project started by Didi Ritambharaji, under the title of “Rashtra Raksha Sutra Bandhan Yatra,” is to show gratitude from the nation for the soldiers’ dedication and extreme courage.

Rashtra Raksha Sutra Bandnan Yatra will be a yearly event beginning with Rakshabandan of 2006.These Rakhis will be known as “Raksha Sutras” (protection threads) and also will be taken to various other borders by girls from every state in the country.

Most people are familiar with Didi Maa’s wonderful work in Vatsalya Gram in Vrindavan. She has dedicated her life for the survival, health and well-being of abducted, abused, repudiated, abandoned children and women, enabling them to rebuild lives with dignity and purpose.

This year, Sanatan Mandir is honored to have Didi Maa Ritambharaji at the mandir on Aug. 6 at 11 a.m. She will deliver a pravachan and celebrate Rakshabandan by tying the handmade Rakhis on the devotees in remembrance of Indian soldiers for their bravery.

For information, call Chandrakant Patel at (813) 340-5505.

Mental Health Column

It is time for the Tampa Bay community to have a forum where voices can be expressed, respected and heard. This column will provide just such a corner. In time, I hope there will be enough interest generated when you, the reader, will begin to request certain topics of discussion.
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Finance | Financial advice | Immigration | Banking | Accounting | Business

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Check out the new recipes submitted by Khaasbaat readers from all over Tampa Bay. Also read features on new food businesses and books. Read Story

Youth Highlights And Column
Every parent can remember a time when his or her beautiful baby changed into a screaming bundle of protoplasm. There is no frustration that can compare to knowing that you have absolutely no idea what your infant is trying to tell you. If he could only talk...
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