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Convenience store owners, the spotlight is on you. The time has come for you all to come together and share your experiences. And you have the perfect venue, right here in the Sunshine State.

The first annual Asian American Convenience Store Association (AACSA) convention and trade show will be held on July 9 at India Cultural Center (5511 Lynn Road) in Tampa. About 1,500 people are expected to attend the daylong event (10 a.m. to 11 p.m.), said Satya Shaw, president of the convention. The chairman for the event is Chandrakant Patel.

What was the purpose of organizing this event? “To unite over 80,000 Indian convenience store owners under one platform to educate and assist them in dealing with legislations, environmental and labor laws, and security issues,” replied Shaw. “Also, increase rebate and discounts through a combined purchasing power.” The plan is to hold the event annually in different cities, he said.

Nearly 50 booths will be set up for the daylong event. Topics such as motivating employees, avoiding pitfalls in buying a store, saving money on tax/accounting/insurance and security will be discussed during the business presentation.

Florida State Attorney General Charlie Crist will give a speech at 6 p.m. followed by dinner. Evening entertainment will include “Yaadon Ki Baraat: A Salute to the Legends,” hosted by Tanaaz Currim (of “Yeh Meri Life Hai” fame) and a performance by actress Suman Ranganathan.

Registration is free for AACSA till June 15, after which a $100 registration fee will be charged. Register online at or call Shaw at (813) 842-0345.

Dr. Kiran C. Patel

You will find, as you look back on your life, that the moments that stand out are the moments when you have done things for others." -- Henry Drummond

Down the road, as Drs. Kiran C. and Pallavi Patel ponder on their numerous charitable activities, the Tampa philanthropists can find solace in this quote by the well-known Scottish theological writer.

On May 20, the acclaimed physicians added one more moment that will benefit others in the decades to come – the single largest donation in the University of South Florida’s history of $18.5 million.

The gift, to be matched by a state grant to total $34.5 million, will fund a new building and create an endowment to build and sustain the $62.5 million Dr. Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions.

“When the USF had a vision for a center that would develop and implement solutions to global issues, Dr. Kiran C. and Pallavi Patel stepped forward to make that vision a reality,” said USF President Judy Genshaft.

The Patel Center will focus on economics, trade and development; health; safety and human security; sustainable environments; and culture and the arts.

“The center offers us a chance to make history,” said Patel. “Let us make history together. Bring your energy into this venture and let the light shine.”

For more information on this and other charitable activities of the Patels, click on

Dr. Rao Musunuru honored
Dr. Rao Musunuru, center, is all smiles upon receiving the National Physician of the Year Award from the American Heart Association in April. Looking on are Alice Jacobs, national president of association and Bill Colledge, its national chairman. The Hudson, Florida-based cardiologist was honored for “outstanding contributions to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.”


About 100 people attended an annual event held by Chinmaya Mission of Tampa Bay on May 7 marking the end of the year for the BalVihar children of Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg. This was celebrated in conjunction with Chinmaya Jayanti at the Hindu Temple hall in Tampa.

The event began with "Paduka Puja" to Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda, led by Brahmacharini Aparna Chaitanya, (resident Acharya Miami Mission), and followed by an inspiring talk by Aparnaji to the BalVihar children and youth. The BalVihar children then presented a variety program that included recitation of Vedic chants, slokas, bhajans and stories from the Ramayan and Bhagavat, dances, and plays.

The program ended with distribution of certificates to 43 children by Aparnaji. All BalVihar teachers were recognized for their seva. Later, a special lunch sponsored by the mission was served.

By Shephali J. Rele

On April 30, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA presented a charity musical concert featuring singer Sushil Baweja and Ashok Pandey on the tabla. About 300 people attended the evening of bhajans and ghazals, according to Chandresh Saraiaya, national president for Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA. The organization addresses the need of primary education in the tribal villages of India. The mission of the Ekal movement is to set up one-teacher schools in these tribal villages.

During the evening, Ekal recognized its Grand Sponsors, including Murali Acharya, Dr. Akshay Desai, Florida Medical Clinic, Dr. Sunil Gupta, Dr. Jay Mulaney and Dr. Kiran Patel.

Pledge donations worth $120,000 were collected to sponsor the one-teacher schools in rural India.

For more information on this organization, click on


“Short Cut to Nirvana: Kumbh Mela,”
“Beyond Bollywood” takes on Orlando!

The 11th annual South Asian Film Festival will be held June 11-13 at the Enzian Theater in the Orlando area. Four films, including “Short Cut to Nirvana: Kumbh Mela,” will be shown during the festival, which is organized by the Asian Cultural Association.
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“I am all over the map. You gotta keep me on track.”

“My mother Mariam was as white as the snow was white.”

“If you want to take a ride with me, I’ll set the meter at $2.50.”

You just can’t stop Shaun Majumder, a Canadian standup comedian based in Los Angeles at present. Born and raised in Toronto, the 33-year-old performed in comedy clubs throughout Canada and the U.S.

He began studying science for a year at Dalhousie University in Halifax. But a year later, he quit “ to be creative, act and make people laugh.” The year was 1995 and since then, he hasn’t set foot off the stage. Really!

Majumder plays a Hindi co-host Raj Bhinder on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation TV’s “This Hour Has 22 Minutes,” a weekly satirical news program. Popular segments include “Sports Beat” with Chip McAllister and “Frontier in Science,” which pokes fun at science and technology magazine programs, commercial parodies, crashing of major events and the ever-popular ambushing of politicians and other public figures.

The combination of sketch comedy and news parody has earned “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” 19 Gemini Awards (the equivalent of an Emmy), including five for Best Comedy Series.

Majumder was a regular on “Cedric the Entertainer Presents” Fox Network show for a season. And then there were roles in such films as “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle,” “The Ladies Man,” “Pushing Tin” and “Purpose.”

Formerly a member of the popular sketch comedy troupe “The Bob Room,” Majumder’s style of comedy earned him his very own one-hour comedy special on The Comedy Network called “On the Edge with Shaun Majumder,” which was nominated for a Gemini Award for Best Comedy Performance.

He received a Gemini nomination for the Halifax Comedy Festival and in 2002 was awarded the Canadian Comedy Award for Pretty Funny Stand Up. He has performed several times as host for “Just for Laughs” TV specials on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation TV as well as been on CBS’ “The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn” and Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend.”

Majumder, whose father is from West Bengal and late mother was from Canada, has never visited India. “But I want to go,” he says. “It is an amazing culture, which has a great sense of humor.”

Coming back to stand-up comedy, Majumder believes it’s an ever-changing business. “I like to improvise and no two shows of mine are the same,” he says. “I am very, very free on stage and talk about things that I find funny. I will spotlight on living in Los Angeles and how absurd this place is, a little bit about personal relationships, etc.”

For more information on this young standup comic, check out And hold down on the laughter, please.


We are beginning a series of articles on the “Wisdom of the Yoga Vasistha.” We attempt to bring to the surface the embedded wisdom, which can be applied to one’s everyday life. The expressions of the writer will be contemporary, truths are eternal but the method of _expression will be conversational. We will move in and out of the story to bring subtle points to the forefront. It is not a scholarly approach but will be shared as a story and discussion in the hopes of involving the readers in the joint venture of mutual exploration.

Swami Suryadevananda
The Yoga Vasistha is an ancient scripture, which expounds the highest truths as a series of dialogues between Rishi Vasistha and Rama, his disciple. What is most unusual in this setting is that Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is on the questioning end and, Rishi Vasistha, the mind-born son of the creator, Brahma, is the one expounding the wisdom by answering all the questions posed by Rama in regards to reconciling what he had learnt, seen and experienced.

This wonderful scripture contains timeless wisdom and is very much applicable to our daily and practical lives. It is not quite as popular as some of the other scriptures such as the “Srimad Bhagavad Gita,” the “Ramayana” or other more prominent scriptures as it takes from the beginning the highest angle of vision in stating that what we call creation is but an appearance behind which is a reality. This reality can only be known if we successfully abandon our notions, concepts and limited angle of vision and reflect deeply on the truths contained within.

This also is the oldest scripture on Vedantic wisdom and one of the largest, consisting of 32,000 couplets in six sections, starting with Rama’s state and his _expression of dispassion based on wisdom, to liberation.

The scripture is full of wisdom woven with many stories, which are very intricate and descriptive in their exposition. Readers are urged not to intellectualize the story or the words used, but to look deeper for the wisdom that the stories are trying to impart. Verbosity is limited and fails to do much justice to the timeless and eternal; the stories can only suggestively point the way.

The Yoga Vasistha begins with a question put by Rishi Sutiksana to Rishi Agastya where he asks what is more conducive to liberation, work or knowledge. To this, Rishi Agastya replies that just as birds are able to fly with both wings, so also, both work and knowledge are essential for liberation.

Rishi Agastya then goes on to tell Rishi Sutiksana about an earlier dialogue on similar questions between Rama and Rishi Vasistha. This was expounded by the Rishi Valmiki who had chronicled the discussion between Rama and Rishi Vasistha for the benefit of sincere seekers aspiring after the truth.

We will continue what happened in the second part of this series.

Swami Suryadevananda, presently residing in St. Petersburg, is with the Divine Life Society founded by Sri Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh, India. He can be reached via e-mail at


American Hindus come from all parts of India and follow a wide variety of Hindu religious practices and traditions. Hence, when building a Hindu temple in the USA, it is important to blend, as much as possible, the different requirements of the Hindu communities and their styles of worship.

This is wholly in keeping with the development of Hinduism, which has embraced all forms of deities, traditions and customs. It is common to find several deities in a temple built to honor a primary (presiding) deity. The different deities represent faculties of Supreme Lord Brahman.

When a temple is built in the U.S., a whole lot of questions need to be asked: What architectural style? Which will be the primary deity? What should be the form of worship? Can we accommodate the different customs and special needs of our vast variety of members?

That was exactly what the Hindu Society (Temple) of Central Florida set out to accomplish in 2001 – build a temple based on unifying principles. “The Hindu religion believes in all different traditions and, affirmed the diversity in styles of worship, Hinduism believes in the oneness of many versions of the Divine,” said Aravind Pillai, chairman of the temple Board of Trustees. “Here in Casselberry, we have tried to bring the different Hindus and forms of Hindu worship together and form a universal place of prayer and reflection.”

Now four years later, the most impressive silhouette of the temple tells the unifying core of the design. The mixed styles of gopurams combine the different elements of Hindu temples. It is a huge complex with ornate carvings and a massive central area for worship. Different deities in the Hindu pantheon Gods are to be housed in the central portion. The Temple is ready for the Maha Kubhabhishekam – the consecration pujas based on the Vedic rituals of sanctifying the temple.

There will be several sponsorship opportunities for people to participate in pujas. They range from a “havan” for $51 to “Pradhana Kalasam” of $10,001.

The opening ceremony of our temple will be an elaborate affair involving many rituals and pujas prescribed by Vedas. Together, these rituals are called “Prathisthapana” or installation of a deity. The “Kumbabhishekam” ceremony is central to the Prathisthapana, marking the transfer of power into the idol. The idols thus prepared give a focus for prayers to the common people.

These ceremonies will be held from June 15-19 inside a huge “yagna shala,” near the temple’s north tower. We also have arranged talks by notable Swamijis, cultural programs and lots more.

About the Orlando Hindu temple

It will be 13,000 square feet. Twenty-two shilpis (artisans) have worked towards “Indianization” of the temple since November 2003. About $3.1 million are going toward the completion of the temple.

The deities will include Lord Ganesh, Balaji (with Bhudevi and Sridevi), Durga Mata, Krishna with Radha, Ram Parivar, the Navagrahas, and Shiva Linga. The gopurams above the shrines are in “Naga” (Northern Indian) style. The gopurams above the entrances and Balaji shrine are in basic “Chola” (Southern Indian) style. Some stone statues and certain carvings were brought from India.

The project mangers for the temple construction are Anil Deshpande and Dev Sharma. Muthiah Sthapati, temple architect from India, is supervising the Indianization work done by shilpis. Subhash Nadkarni of Chicago and Kishore Pathare of Orlando are the designers and architects.

For more information on the temple at 1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry, visit or call the temple at 407-699-5277, Aravind Pillai at 407-718-8733 or Mala Karkharnis at 407-658-6528.

Bollywood Preview
By Shephali J. Rele

This section will be devoted to telling you about creative films that may not have been blockbuster hits but in case you missed it, worth a look. It will also focus on new releases this month.
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Book cover
By Nitish S. Rele

Looking to visit India this summer? Or maybe planning a vacation to the country of your birth in December? Well, don’t forget the updated and fifth edition of “India Fodor’s,” which was recently released.

For 2005, the over 600-page travel guide is packed with the usual information on not just where to stay or when to go, but also great itineraries, pleasures and pastimes, calendar of events and smart travel tips.

For convenience, the book is divided into 12 regions: The Himalayas, Delhi, North Central India, Rajasthan, Bombay and Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad, Orissa and Calcutta.
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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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Send your opinion


“Takeout?” You can’t be serious. Especially, not after you start reading the recently released “Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More Than 150 Recipes” by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness. Published by Clarkson Potter, the 272-page book (priced at $32.50) is filled with 75 color photographs showing some delicious and sumptuous meals. Read Story

Youth Highlights
The theory of multiple intelligences (MI) was first proposed by Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University, in 1983. The paradigm proposes that the traditional view of intelligence, most often based on Intelligence Quotient (IQ), is too limiting. Instead, Gardner suggests that there are multiple types of intelligences that humans possess. The current MI model distinguishes nine specific intelligences.
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