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Ganesh Market owner Sonal Mashruwala receives the Businesswoman of the Year award from Santosh Govindaraju.

Khaas Baat Editor/Publisher Nitish S. Rele, Tampa Ganesh Market & Chaat Cafe owner Sonal Mashruwala, community leader Dr. Pawan Rattan and Homeowners Choice Insurance founders Paresh Patel, Jay Madhu, Minesh Patel and Kris Persaud were honored at the recent Tampa INDOUS Chamber's 10th anniversary Banyan Ball.

Also in attendance was guest speaker Keshav Murugesh of Syntel Inc. and chief guest Sanjiv Arora, Indian Consul General in Houston, and Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum.

INDOUS Chamber President Francis Vayalumkal welcomed the nearly 320 attendees, a sold out crowd.

This was Arora's first visit to Tampa. Reflecting on the recent Indian elections, the Consul General said, "India is a multicultural and diverse society where 714 million electoral votes were cast. A great transformation has taken place in India since 1985, and we've seen vibrancy in science and technology, and our growing middle class."

Paresh Patel, left, and Jay Madhu, right, receive the Businessmen of the Year honor from Santosh Govindaraju.

According to Arora, there has been a heightened attention on Indo-U.S. relations in discovering each other. We are engaged democracies, he said. "The sky's the limit for our relations. Despite the prevailing economic downturn, the Indian economy is healthy."

INDOUS Chamber board member Santosh Govindaraju presented the following awards: Businessmen of the Year to Homeowners Choice Insurance founders Paresh Patel, Jay Madhu, Minesh Patel and Kris Persaud. Founded in 2006, Homeowners Choice serves more than 65,000 policyholders throughout Florida.

Sonal Mashruwala of Ganesh Market in Tampa received the Businesswoman of the Year Award. A native of Ahmedabad, Mashruwala and her husband, Achut, opened the store (at 6204 N. Armenia Ave.) in 1996. The chamber noted that Mashruwala made sure that everyone who visited Ganesh Market felt comfortable shopping.

Khaas Baat Editor/Publisher Nitish S. Rele receives the Community Service Person of the Year honor from Santosh Govindaraju.
The 42-year-old creates an Indian home environment, finding time to pay special attention to each one of her customers. Some years ago, Mashruwala introduced Indian fast food 'Chaat" to the grocery business, reminding Indians of the home-cooked food that they thought they'd left behind in their motherland.

Khaas Baat Editor/Publisher Nitish S. Rele received the Community Service Person of the Year honor. A 25-year veteran journalist with a Master's Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rele has been active since INDOUS was formed in helping to promote their events in the local media, whether writing the story or press release or using his media contacts to get it published. Rele worked as editor/automotive columnist at The Tampa Tribune for 20 years. Nearly five years ago, Nitish and I started Khaas Baat. The satisfaction he feels providing a valuable service to the community is motivation and reward.

The INDOUS Founder's Award was presented to community leader Dr. Pawan Rattan, who was instrumental in the founding of the chamber 10 years ago. His vision and efforts to create the chamber were highlighted.

Dr. Pawan Rattan, left, receives the INDOUS Founder's Award from Dilip Kanji.
Keynote speaker Keshav Murugesh urged business personalities to focus on innovation, citing the example of Virgin Airlines. His advice, "Never compromise on integrity, be transparent, invest in values."

Festive formal décor for the gala was created by Lakshmi Sastry of Rtti Inc.

INDOUS will hold its next monthly business meeting at 6:30 p.m. July 15 at the Quorum Hotel in Tampa. For more information, visit

Story provided by HSCF

The Hindu Society of Central Florida's temple in Casselberry celebrated its fourth anniversary by holding a Sahasra Kalasabhishekam, Brahmotsavam and Sri Chandi Havan from June 19-21. These three days of havans, prayers and religious activities filled the temple premises with deep sonorous sounds of spiritual chants from the Vedas. Twelve renowned priests performed the ancient, meaningful and appropriate rites and rituals.

More than a 1,000 devotees witnessed and participated in various religious activities such as Garuda Vahanotsavam, Sesha Vahanothsavam, Ratha Yatra, Sri Chandi, Sri Ganesha, Sri Vishnu and Sri Lakshmi havans.

Dr. Adinarayana Murthy Nallamshetty, chairman of Board of Trustees, encouraged community members to participate in Sahasra Kalasabhishekam, which brings purity and peace in people's lives and enhances prosperity and well-being of the community.

Four years ago, the HSCF temple was inaugurated and the weeklong ceremonies brought people from India and across North America. This 4th anniversary celebration was a re-invocation of the purifying rites and to seek the blessings of Supreme God.

Along with spiritual events, various cultural programs and a youth exhibition, "Yuv Kala," were held. The highlight was a musical performance by Anup Jalota with his live orchestra, which attracted more than 750 spectators.

On June 25, devotees participated in Sri Chandi Havan. This was followed by an Indian classical dance program and Garba. Mahendra Kapadia, president of the executive committee, was happy with the turnout for the programs. "People of all generations and regions are very fond of the bhajans of Anupji," he remarked.

The event was made possible with the support of community members, priests, devotees and volunteers. HSCF BOT and Executive Committee members and Sahasra Kalasabhishekam core committee members expressed thanks to each and everyone who contributed to success of the event.

For more information on Sahasra Kalasa sponsorship, call (407) 699-5277.

Story provided by Bhavin Vaishnav

About 40 artists from India recently presented "Sathvaro Shri Radhe Shymno," a devotional music-dance saga of Shree Radha-Krishna, in Orlando.

The star of the show was 8-year-old Khushali Hirani. Punita Hirani, choreographer and dancer, showed unstoppable energy. Her choreography conveyed the relationships of the characters and their emotions effectively. Gracious emcee Himali Sejpal used humor and witty observations to entertain and connect the audience with the 5,000-year-old life story of Radha-Krishna. Vocalists Manisha Salva and Saurabh Mehta ("Indian Idol" finalist) were in superb tune.

The show was promoted by Bharat Patel and Jayesh Patel to raise funds for VRAJ of Pennsylvania and Youth camp.

Bharat Patel, chairman of Vraj Pennsylvania, recognized everyone for their generous contribution to the cause. Jayesh Patel thanked all who traveled from Jacksonville, Tampa and other parts of Florida to support the program.

National promoter Kanu Chauhan pointed out that the purpose of the show is to motivate the youth who were born and raised outside India to be familiar with the culture of their motherland India. Bhargav Patel of Patidar Samaj of Mumbai and Gautam Patel, manager, were pleased with the hospitality shown by their Orlando host.


More than 300 people are expected at the second annual Garam Garba on Saturday, July 11, in Orlando. Last year's event held by the Exit 10 group (group of 19 motivated students from the University of Central Florida) raised $2,638 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

This time, the group hopes to raise between $4,000 to $5,000. "We want to bring awareness of the South Asian cultures and obtain a strong voice for South Asians within our community," said organizer Neal Patel of Orlando. Performing at Garam Garba will be the Rawal Bros of Daytona Beach.

"We have some sponsors but welcome more," said Patel, whose group Exit 10 also held a full-day cleanup at the Hindu Temple in Orlando area last year. "This is all for a good cause."

Tickets for the 8 p.m. Garam Garba are $8 regular admission and $5 for students. The event will be the Hindu Temple of Orlando community hall, 1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry.

For more information, call Neal Patel at (407) 616-8872 or Nirav Amin at (321) 277-5837 or visit

State Rep. Will Weatherford, Dr. Rao Musunuru and Bill Aycrigg.

CARES recently held its annual signature fundraising event, the Annual Benefit and Recognition Dinner, at Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel. State Representative Will Weatherford and his family were honored.

At the end of the evening, Dr. Rao Musunuru, the Presenting Sponsor, and the Master of Ceremonies, was presented with the "CARES All Time Top Donor Award' by CARES President/CEO Bill Aycrigg and State Rep. Weatherford. CARES will use the money raised to help support home care for the frail elderly, senior enrichment centers and specialized support services.

The nonprofit Community Aging and Retirement Services Inc., or CARES offers aging and retirement programs and services in West Central Florida.

Story provided by GenOm

The Generation OM Inc. Foundation has extended the deadline for applying for a scholarship to July 31. The essay competition is open to youth in the Central Florida area and awarded to a high school student who is heading off to college. The competition seeks to help college bound youth, to encourage them to learn about their Sanatana Dharma and keep the Hindu religion relevant to the youth.

For July, Generation OM is providing a scholarship opportunity for Central Florida Indian-American high school seniors who are entering a fully accredited U.S. college or university in the 2009-2010 school year.

The eligibility and application requirements for the scholarship are writing an essay and a recommendation letter. The scholarship will be awarded on Aug. 9.

For a copy of the scholarship form, visit

Story provided by Sreenivas Jarugula

TANA-MAA TV North America Super Singer Preliminary Competition was successfully conducted June 6 in Orlando at the Hindu Society of Central Florida Temple Hall. Twenty participants from all over Florida and neighboring States participated in the preliminary singing competition. More than 700 people from Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, Miami and Atlanta were glued to their seats for seven-hour program.

Sreenivas Jarugula, 17th TANA Conference Cultural Co-chair, was coordinator with the help of local Telugu community volunteers, Jyothi Kalakota (17th TANA Conference Sovuneir Co-chair), Ramu Guduri ,Madhu Cherukuri, Dr. Santharam Nallamshetty, Dr. Adinarayana Murthy, Dr.Buchi Reddy, Dr Ram Reddy, Radhakrishna Pillersetty, Srinivas Katakam, Seshu Parupally and MAA TV representative Lakshmi Devineni. From Tampa, Chandu Talla and Sridhar Vallampatla coordinated to get more people to attend this event.

Mimicry artist Reverse Guruswamy, judges Sunitha and Mallikarjun (movie playback singers) entertained the audience. Vinay Mahamkali and Bharat Pudi were selected for the semifinals from Orlando.

The 14 winners of the preliminary competitions held in seven centers will participate in the semifinals on July 2 during the 17th TANA Conference in Chicago. From the semifinals, three finalists will be selected to compete in the finals to be held during the primetime of the TANA Conference on July 3. Both events will be broadcast on MAA TV. The finals of TANA- MAA TV IDEA Super Singer III will be held at the same time.

The semifinals at 2 p.m. on July 2 are free to the public. The finals on July 3 can be seen live only by the registrants for the 17th TANA Conference. For conference details, visit


Ford Edge

For 2009, Ford has an all-new Sport version of the Edge. Overall ride and handling quality is excellent with the right amount of power for passing on city streets or the highway in the four-door, five-passenger crossover SUV.

A 3.5-liter V-6 engine doles out 265 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 250 pounds-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. The 6-speed automatic transmission is slick and flawless. Tow capacity is a decent 3,500 pounds. Based on a unibody structure and exclusive to the Sport model are massive 22-inch wheels, dual exhaust and a body-colored kit, which includes a distinct front air dam, side skirts, lower door caps and a rear skirt.

Staring in your face is a three-bar chromed grille and quad-beam headlights, aggressively raked windshield, fast-sloping back window, high-mounted spoiler, integrated fog lamps and a lower grille insert. Step into the cabin and the ambient lights that illuminate the foot wells and cup holders will catch your eye. Other notable standard features on the Sport model are Sync, which integrates Bluetooth-enabled cell phones and iPods through voice recognition, six-way power adjustable front seats and a 60/40 fold-flat rear seat.

If you are in the market for a crossover SUV, this Ford product would be a smart choice. Besides, you would have an 'Edge' over the rest of the field.


Wheelbase: 111.2 inches
Length: 185.7 5 inches
Height: 67 inches
Weight: 4,078 pounds
Suspension: MacPherson strut and L-shaped lower control arm suspension in front and a trailing blade, integrated knuckle and lateral links in the rear
Steering: power rack and pinion
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons
City: 17 mpg
Highway: 21 mpg
Base price: $33,755
Web site:

Test-drive the Edge at Brandon Ford at 9090 Adamo Drive in Tampa. For more information on the Edge and the rest of the Ford lineup, call the Brandon Ford Internet Sales Staff at 1-800-405-1052 or visit

Ford Flex

Call it boxy, different or bold but we have to admit that the seven-passenger 2009 Ford Flex SEL SUV is up to the job of tackling the rigors of daily driving. For a front-wheel-drive engine SUV, its handling and steering is remarkable even at tight corners and sharp turns.

The 3.5-liter V-6 engine cranks out 262 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 248 pounds-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. The 6-speed automatic transmission is responsive to every move by the driver. The power rack-and-pinion steering conveys an exceptional on-center feel. The SUV feels firm and surefooted, thanks to a front MacPherson strut and a rear multilink independent suspension.

Based on a steel unibody structure, the two-tone exterior shows off a chrome horizontal three-bar grille, door handles, mirrors and exhaust tips, horizontal-shaped HID headlights, chrome-bezeled fog lamps, rounded LED tail lamps, and signature side grooves. If you are looking for people-hauling practicality in your ride, the Flex fits the bill with its 155.8 cubic feet of room for passengers. Cargo space is a generous 83.2 cubic feet when the second- and third-row seats are folded flat. Also standard are a four-spoke tilt leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, 10-way power driver and 6-way front-passenger seats and ambient lighting.

The folks at Ford point out that the Flex is like nothing else on the road and defies being categorized. We couldn't agree more. A top-notch interior, bold-looking exterior and solid chassis make this SUV a smart choice.


Tires: P235/60R18
Wheelbase: 117.9 inches
Length: 201.8 inches
Height: 68 inches
Weight: 4,468 pounds
Fuel capacity: 18.6 gallons
City: 17 mpg
Highway: 24 mpg
Base price: $32,070
Web site:

Test-drive the Flex at Brandon Ford at 9090 Adamo Drive in Tampa. For more information on the Flex and the rest of the Ford lineup, call the Brandon Ford Internet Sales Staff at 1-800-405-1052 or visit


Amol Nirgudkar

At kitchen tables across America, the burning question is: What do we make of the American economy and when are things going to get better? The truth is that the recent rallies in the stock market have baffled all of us and left us looking hard for the answer to this frustrating question.

The market rally offers us hope while it lasts, but mere hope is not enough to recover the investment losses incurred over the past two years. The rising oil and commodity prices, along with higher interest rates are both troubling "telltale" signs that foreshadow even tougher times. And as if these problems are not enough, the massive stimulus packages do not seem to be working either, at least for now.

So where do we go from here? How do we reclaim our retirement? In this article, we will discuss a popular insurance product called the Variable Universal Life (VUL) that has been touted as an alternative retirement savings tool for years by many in the financial services industry. I know that the last thing people want to hear today is that they should buy another insurance product, but sometimes bad economic times are the best times for making investments, whether in the stock market, or even in depressed real estate; either of which can payoff big in the future.

A VUL is a type of permanent life insurance whereby the death benefit is paid no matter if or when the insured dies, as long as there is sufficient cash inside the policy to cover for policy costs. VUL's flexibility allows the policyholder to select the timing and amount of payments within certain contractual framework. When a policyholder pays premiums, the insurance company deducts various costs and invests the rest of the money in separate accounts. Separate accounts allow the policyholder to invest the cash in several combinations of stock and bond funds set to a comfortable yet measured risk-preference. As long as the investments within the policy outperform the internal policy costs, the policy holder can come out ahead and guarantee himself a decent retirement income through tax free withdrawals.

The recent turmoil in the stock market, however, has wreaked havoc on the cash values within the VULs. The skeptics are absolutely right when they say that a market downturn can make a poorly designed policy virtually worthless. And it might take years before the cash values yield net positive returns and thereby make the policy assumptions true once again.

The depressed markets do offer a unique opportunity for certain investors to look into the VUL as a retirement vehicle. Does this mean that everyone should just go buy a new policy and pitch their 401(k), IRAs and other qualified retirement accounts? The answer is a vehement NO. VUL should only be considered as an option for retirement only after maximizing available alternatives for retirement.

Before you make a decision to buy a VUL, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of owning a policy. Important advantages of a VUL are flexibility of premiums and death benefit, tax-free investment earnings and tax-free withdrawals through policy loans. Some important disadvantages are that they are costlier than other types of life insurance, may lose value in bear markets or with bad investment choices and can be complex to understand and thereby set wrong expectations.

Whether a VUL suits your retirement needs depends on your specific situation. It is vital to have a vigorous dialogue with your financial advisor to discuss the pros and cons of buying such a policy for the purpose of retirement planning. It is easy to get carried away by illustrations that show unrealistic linear returns over long periods of time. The stock market, as we all know, does not behave in a linear upward fashion. The last thing you want to do is throw good money in a bad strategy and expect a good outcome.

Amol Nirgudkar, CPA, managing partner of Reliance Consulting LLC and a partner at Reliance Wealth & Trust Partners LLC, can be reached at (813) 931-7258 or email



Have you opened a new store or restaurant in the last six months? Expanding or relocating? Has your business won an award or a mention in your local newspaper? We want to hear from you. Call Nitish S. Rele at (813) 758-1786 or e-mail us at


The eatery owned by Pat Bhava been made it among the nine "Great Eats, One Street" (Kennedy Boulevard) by the TBT tabloid recently. Here's what the newspaper writes, "… this brightly colored Indian restaurant draws those seeking cheap and healthy 'curry in a hurry.' This MacDill Avenue transplant serves curries, wraps and smoothies for takeout, dine-in and delivery."

The "Best fast food that's not fast food" restaurant at 1506-B W. Kennedy Blvd. is open for lunch and dinner. For more information, call (813) 251-2111 or visit


Creative Loafing picked Udipi Café as one of the Top 50 restaurants in Tampa Bay. Here's what the weekly had to say: "Udipi is strictly vegetarian, strictly no-alcohol, but this Carrollwood Indian restaurant still draws all kinds of people for its traditional cuisine. You won't think about what you're missing after tasting Udipi's tender rice crepes stuffed with brightly seasoned veggies, or the wide selection of classic breads."

Udipi is at 14422 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. For more information, call (813) 962-7300 or visit

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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