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FLORIDA CELEBRATES NAVRATRI
By NITISH S. RELE - editor@khaasbaat.com

The festival of nine nights is just around the corner. So, dig out those dandiyas, chaniya-cholis and head out to celebrate raas-garba.

Here are some of the communities in Florida that are celebrating Navratri:

TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG: The Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay will hold its Navratri Utsav Sept. 26-28 and Oct. 3-5 at the India Cultural Center, 5511 Lynn Road in Tampa. The event is free for paid Samaj members. For more information and details, call Samaj President Dr. Harish Patel at (727) 398-4030, Vice President C. J. Patel at (813) 960-8450 or Associate Vice President Jyotsna Patel at (813) 973-9856 or visit www.gujaratisamaj.org

ORLANDO: The Gujarati Society of Central Florida will celebrate Navratri from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Oct. 3-4, 10-11 at Lyman High School, 865 S. Ronald Reagan Blvd., Longwood. Entry fee is $100 per family yearly membership or $15 per person per day. Performing on stage are Lakhia Brothers and Raj Pandya. For more information, call Nilkanth Kapadia at (407) 832-3835 or Devendra Patel at (407) 832-8836, e-mail info@gujaratisocietycfl.com or visit www.gujaratisocietycfl.com

SPACE COAST: The Indian Association of the Space Coast (IASC) will observe Navratri festivities at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at Brevard Community College, Melbourne campus; Oct. 11 at the Kiwanis Gym, Merritt Island; Oct. 18 at Eau Gallie Civic Center, Melbourne. For more information, visit www.iascbrevard.com

SOUTH FLORIDA: The Leuva Patidar Samaj of South Florida, Indian Religious & Cultural Center and Gujarati Samaj of South Florida will present a grand Navratri event from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sept. 27 and Oct. 3-4 at Silver Trail Middle School, 18300 Sheridan St., Pembroke Pines. Entrance charge is $25 for the three days with advance purchase or $30 at the door for a three-day pass. For more information, call Dilip Makan at (954) 494-5424, Poonam Wadhwa at (954) 345-3412 or D.A. Patel at (305) 247-6621 or visit www.irccflorida.com


TAMPA CRICKET MATCH SEPT. 28 TO BENEFIT CARIB PROJECT
Story provided by CACCTB

The gentleman's game, as it has been known, comes to Tampa on Sept. 28. The venue is Hamilton Avenue Park, 9251 Hamilton Ave. W. Gates open at 10 a.m. and the cricket match between the West Indies of Tampa Bay and India of Tampa Bay starts at 11 a.m.

The prize is the "bragging rights" to be called the best cricket team in Tampa Bay. Admission to the event is free with a $5 charge for venue parking. Food and drinks will be on sale and it promises to be a fun-filled family affair, featuring spot prizes, raffles, and of course the best in Indian and Caribbean dishes. All proceeds will benefit the Carib Project, which is the establishment of a Caribbean American Business and Cultural Center in Tampa.

The Carib Project Inc. is a non-profit organization founded in August 2007 by representatives of Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce of Tampa Bay (CACCTB), Caribbean Cultural Association Inc. (CCA) and the Haitian Association Foundation of Tampa Bay Inc. (HAF).

The state-of-the art multi-purpose, self-sustaining business and cultural center will promote cultural, educational and business interests of the Caribbean and American youth and expose them to their cultural roots and foster a continued sense of their Caribbean identity.

For information, visit www.cacctb.com or call (813) 333-9331.




FORT LAUDERDALE MUSEUM HOSTS 'EXPLORE INDIA FILM FESTIVAL' SEPT. 6.-OCT. 30
Story provided by MODS

The Museum of Discovery and Science (MODS) in Fort Lauderdale will host the "Explore India Film Festival" at its AutoNation IMAX Theater from Sept. 6 through Oct. 30.

Sponsored by American Express, the festival features two films - "Mystic India" and "India: Kingdom of the Tiger" - that highlight the country's culture, customs and traditions. Opening weekend activities include classic Indian violin and singing by an 8-year-old-artist, a Tiger Talk, sitar performances and more. A special "Buy one film, get one free," film package offer is available - both films plus exhibit admission is $15 adults; $14 seniors; $12 children ages 2 to 12.

OPENING WEEKEND ACTIVITIES - SEPT. 6-7

World-renowned sitar musician Stephan Mikes will perform from noon till 4 p.m. on both days. Since 1986, Mikes has been performing and perfecting his own distinctive technique on the sitar. He has released four highly-acclaimed CDs of his modern original compositions on the independent Akasha label. -

Authentic Indian Jewelry

Sept. 6-7 from noon to 5 p.m.

Although DKV Jewelers is in Boca Raton, it also has storefronts in India. They will display and discuss the fine jewelry found within the Indian culture, what it symbolizes and its history.

Classic Indian Violin and Singing

Sept. 6 at 3:30 p.m.

Eight-year-old artist Suganth Kannan will perform three different musical melodies representing the colors in the Indian flag.

Palm Beach Zoo Tiger Talk

Sept. 6 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The staff from the Palm Beach Zoo's Education Department will talk about tigers and tiger conservation. See a tiger's skull and touch real whiskers and claws. Say hi to the zoo's tiger character mascot "Timmy the Tiger."

MODS, at 401 S.W. Second St. in Fort Lauderdale, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday with extended IMAX hours on most evenings. For more information, call (954) 467-6637 or visit www.mods.org




Click To Enlarge
TAMPA ANUP JALOTA CONCERT SEPT. 19 TO BENEFIT SANATAN MANDIR
By NITISH S. RELE - editor@khaasbaat.com

About 1,000 people are expected to attend the Friday, Sept. 19, bhajan and ghazal samrat Anup Jalota concert at India Cultural Center (5511 Lynn Road) in Tampa to benefit Santan Mandir (311 E. Palm Ave.). Organizers hope to raise between $50,000 to $100,000 from the 8 p.m. concert. Proceeds will be used "for renovation of the current building so that the building we use at present becomes a community hall," said Dr. Pawan Rattan, founder of Sanatan Mandir.

"We will be constructing a new second floor (part of the building) so we can have a temple upstairs," he said. "The downstairs community hall will be named after a major donor who gives $100,000 or more."

Construction costs, including deities, will be between $700,000 to $800,000, according to Dr. Rattan. "We will have an elevator and staircase to go upstairs," he said. "On the first floor, we will have a library, cassette area, bathrooms, and Annpoorna Kitchen, named after the late mother of Dr. Vibhuti Singh." Tickets are $25, $35, $50, $100, $250. For information, call Kiron Senapati at (813) 267-7660, Chandrakant Patel at (813) 340-5505 or Sanatan Mandir at (813) 221-4482.




Amita Patel
AMITA PATEL OF VULCAL - DESIGNER PAR EXCELLENCE
By NITISH S. RELE - editor@khaasbaat.com

As we inch closer to Navratri and Diwali festivals, we reproduce our story on designer-par-excellence Amita Patel of Vulcal Boutique in Orlando . Patel is known for her ghagra-cholis, designer saris, blouses, salwar-kameezes, and traditional shararas in cotton, silk and polyester.

Amita Patel was quite young when she began painting. She focused her entire energy on her passion for colors and their medium, in the process winning several prizes. At the age of 12, she was chosen as one of 20 first-prize winners in the UNICEF-sponsored international children's drawing competition in Paris. Subsequently, her award-winning painting on the theme of a springtime festival was picked to commemorate the 25th year of UNICEF through a 1974 Indian stamp.

"I always wanted to be an artist," says the Orlando resident. But she ended up pursuing something more rewarding monetarily - dress designing. In 1984, she opened Vulcal, an upscale women's boutique in Baroda. It was a business that eventually brought her half way around the world from her native Baroda.

"I realized that many of my customers found it difficult to visit my boutique there as frequently as they would have liked to, because they now live in the United States," she says. "The result of her realization was that she began to take her dress designs to her customers, rather than wait for them to come to her.

She continued to tour several U.S. cities regularly to market her designs and displayed her wares to Florida's Indian community through shows and exhibitions. And it wasn't before long that in 2003, she opened the 1,200-square-foot Vulcal Boutique on Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando.

But of course the heart and most of the original business is still in India, which she visits at least thrice a year. Back in Baroda, more than 70 employees work on the intricate embroidery of her dresses, some of which require painstaking manual skills. But the creation begins on Patel's palette, where she carefully chooses colors, cuts and embroidery according to the design before the workers take over.

Patel is known for her designer saris, blouses, salwar-kameezes, ghagra-cholis and traditional shararas in cotton, silk and polyester. "I am very quality conscious," she says. "New designs constantly come to my mind because I am an artist. I tell my customers to trust me and let me do my job. I like to take up a challenge."

For more information, call Vulcal at (407) 718-4737 or click on www.vulcal.com




More than 1,300 people attended An Evening with the Mystic Sadhguru Vasudev in Tampa.
1,300 ATTENDED AN EVENING WITH THE MYSTIC IN TAMPA
Story provided by Isha Yoga

More than 1,300 people attended An Evening with the Mystic Aug. 3 at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. It was one in a series of public talks and book-signing events scheduled around the country to promote the newly-released book "Midnights with the Mystic," co-authored by Cheryl Simone. The book, published by Hampton Roads, details conversations which took place between Simone and Indian mystic Sadhguru Vasudev during a weeklong stay at her lake house.

Simone introduced Sadhguru by telling about her life as a seeker of spiritual truth and of how her quest led to Sadhguru and Isha Yoga. She detailed the considerable physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits her practice of yoga has generated.

Though dressed in traditional robes, turban, and sporting a flowing white beard, this mystic and master yogi presented his wisdom in a thoroughly modern and lively manner, sprinkling a liberal dose of humor throughout his two-hour discourse. He spoke about the ancient science of yoga and how yogic technology can be applied to the problems facing people today. Using this ancient science as a vehicle, Sadhguru created a program called Inner Engineering. During these weeklong programs, highly trained Isha yoga teachers transmit the Shambhavi Maha Mudra kriya, a powerful and purifying energy technique which incorporates the breath, and which leads to deep inner transformation.

Inner Engineering programs are offered extensively throughout India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and all across the United States, and are conducted regularly in Tampa. The next session will be held from Sept. 3-9 at The Belleview Biltmore Resort, 25 Belleview Blvd., Clearwater.

For program details, visit www.ishafoundation.org, call (813) 413-1661 or e-mail tampa@ishafoundation.org


DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: USING LAW TO EMPOWER SOUTH ASIAN WOMEN IN DISTRESS
Story provided by SABA and Pehchaan

The South Asian Bar Association of Florida - Tampa chapter (SABA-FL) and PEHCHAAN, a psychosocial organization of Tampa, combined their efforts to help victims of domestic violence in the South Asian community in Tampa by holding an educational program on July 24.

Tara Rao, of the Rao Law Firm, P.L., board member and vice president of the Tampa region of SABA-FL and Sushama Kirtikar, mental health counselor and president of Pehchaan, organized the seminar. SABA-FL presented two other similar seminars in South Florida recently. "SABA-FL has great potential and an ability to reach out to the South Asian community", said Rao, an estates and trusts attorney in Lutz.

The seminar included four outstanding speakers, Kirtikar, attorney Shazia Nagamia Sparkman of Sparkman and Sparkman, P.A., attorney Dilip Patel of the Dilip Patel Law Firm, attorney Lisa Cochrane from Gulfcoast Legal Services Inc., and Rao as moderator.

"Domestic violence is an equal opportunity scourge that cuts across all ethnocultural and socioeconomic strata," Kirtikar said. She emphasized the dynamics of domestic violence and myriad social factors affecting South Asian immigrants.

Family law attorney and former prosecutor Shazia Nagamia Sparkman discussed the legal procedures of filing both a criminal case of domestic violence and the requirements necessary to file for an injunction for protection. "It is important to remain steadfast in the struggle against domestic violence and ensure the legal resources and procedures are known and made available to the victims of domestic violence," she said.

Immigration law expert Dilip Patel emphasized that the most important point for victims was to understand that they usually need not endure abuse for fear of losing immigration status. "The U.S. immigration laws were significantly amended over the past few years to empower victims of abuse to pursue immigration benefits even if their U.S. Citizen or permanent resident spouses refuses to cooperate," he said.

Attorney Lisa Cochrane completed the presentations with information about services available through legal aid organizations.




JACKSONVILLE HOLDS INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS
Story provided by Krish Seetharaman

Jacksonville began Indian Independence Day celebrations on Aug. 16 with a group of volunteers gathering at a parking lot to decorate the trucks for the India Day parade. Within an hour, the trucks were decorated with Indian flag colors. One of the trucks was adorned with alternating Indian and American flags all around.

The parade began at the junction of Bay Meadows Road and Old Bay Meadows Road in the south side of the city. More than 300 people dressed in traditional Indian clothes chanted slogans such as "Vande Maatharam," "Bharat Maatha ki Jai" and songs like "Saare jahaan se Accha." Groups of dancers presented Bhangra style dance to the beat of dhol.

After the parade, a cultural program organized by the India Cultural Society was presented in an auditorium at the University of North Florida. The event included fancy dress competition, skits, dance, music and ebded with Antaakshari.


"CHILDREN ARE NOT VESSELS TO BE FILLED, BUT LAMPS TO BE LIT"
Story provided by a grateful Balavihar parent

Gurudev, as Swami Chinmayananda is lovingly known, loved children.

The first time I heard his lecture and consequently asked to meet up with him, Gurudev said: "By all means come and meet me at 4 p.m. tomorrow but please bring your children."

Then smiling at me, he said, "The children … don't forget."

It seemed to me that the Swami wanted to meet my children more than me, and for a fraction of a second, I felt let down. In my ignorance, I could not understand why my children, whom Swamiji had neither known nor seen, were so important to him.

Nodding my head in agreement, I went home.

With my children in tow, I finally met up with Swamiji.

He played with my children, taking them in his lap, and gently stroked them. After asking their names and the class they went to, he turned his attention to me.

"Nirmala, take the children to Balavihar every Saturday."

In my head, Balavihar was a strange word then, and I completely failed to understand Gurudev. In hushed tones, often interspersed with a higher pitch, Gurudev's usual style, he told me that they were classes on Hindu culture formulated for children.

"I will take them Swamiji, I will," I said to him.

"Nirmala, children are not vessels to be filled, but lamps to be lit," Swamiji said gleefully.

As my children attended Balavihar 20 years ago in the small Hindu Temple of my home town, I did not even understand the impact of those character-building classes on them directly and us indirectly till much later. I was so absorbed in myself, my profession and my social commitments, that unlike the parents of Balavihar children of today, I would often send my children to class with the driver, while I either slept in after being on call, or found it hard to get up early.

Balavihar was in its infancy, a new concept, and some brave, inspired and dedicated volunteers would sacrifice their Saturday mornings to teach about eight or 10 children. Sometimes, there were only four or five in attendance.

Today, after two decades, I realize that life-enforcing positive seeds of an ancient culture, which taught universal brotherhood and love, were sown in the children's hearts and minds.

Fundamental human values were being taught through a method of learning where heavy concepts were taught through stories and games.

The change or growth was slow but the journey was full of pleasant surprises, which came to me as gift-wrapped packages … when I was told by my son not to spank my daughter, his little sister, since his Balavihar teacher taught him that one should never strike anyone weaker than oneself.

That day, when I had raised my hand to spank my child, to this day when she is 20, I thank Gurudev for telling me to bring my children to him. He had lit a lamp in their hearts, which showed the right path to me with its gentle and pure light.

Now, I am older and wiser and as I smell the fragrance of the flowers that God entrusted to me … my two children … the gift packages are getting better and even more meaningful.

I know that by myself, with all my conditionings and busy life, I could not have made that happen. My children are now fine young people with their heads firmly placed on their shoulders. Temptations and trials come to them every now and then and it gives me deep satisfaction to watch the way they handle their lives. So to that Guru, who after taking Mahasamadhi didn't leave us as orphans, but left us his heart to further nourish his vision … in the form of Swami Tejomayanandaji … my prostrations.

Today, Chinmaya Balavihar is a virtual movement, better organized with trained, committed and loving teachers and sevaks. More and more parents are thrown in a world that is getting increasingly complicated, many times with both parents having to spend much time at work. This safe haven where children spend time with like- minded families, learning lifesaving skills, personal growth, heightened efficiency, contentment, and the ability to live with others in peace and harmony. Fostering life long friendship at a crucial age is nothing but Ishwara Kripa, Guru Kripa Shastra Kripa and Atma Kripa made visible.

Hari Om!

For more information, visit www.chinmayamission.org


4TH ANNUAL EXPERIENCE ASIA 2008 FESTIVAL SET SEPT. 27 IN TALLAHASSEE
Story provided by Thayumana Somasundaram

The Asian Coalition of Tallahassee (ACT) is holding the fourth Annual Experience Asia 2008 Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Bloxham-Lewis Parks in downtown Tallahassee. During the last three years, the Experience Asia Festival has grown from an event attended by few 100 people to last year's crowd of more than 10,000. It also has become the third most attended outdoor event in Tallahassee. In 2007, the festival had performers who traveled from Taiwan and Japan.

This year, the festival will feature local performers representing China, India, the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Pakistan and the United States. There will be exhibitors from both for-profit and non-profit organizations such as Jenny's Accessories and Kineasthetics and food vendors representing Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Korean cuisines and booths representing organizations like Indian Association of Tallahassee, Big Bend Filipino-American Association, FSU-International Center, Tallahassee Families with Asian Children, and Chinese Association of Tallahassee, and others.

India Association of Tallahassee is a charter member of Asian Coalition of Tallahassee. If you are interested in being a performer, sponsor, vendor or an exhibitor for this event, call Thayumana Somasundaram at (850) 339-2699 or e-mail somabhanu@gmail.com or call Aurora Hansen at (850) 321-1114 or e-mail auroratorreshansen@gmail.com.

For more information, visit www.asiantlh.org or http://www.iatlh.org or e-mail ACT Chairman Dr. Clyde Diao at cldiao2@gmail.com.


GUEST COLUMN


Amol Nirgudkar
2008 ECONOMIC STIMULUS ACT: TIME RUNNING OUT FOR BUSINESSES
By AMOL NIRGUDKAR

Earlier this year, Congress passed the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 to jumpstart our economy. The centerpiece of the legislation was government's issuance of rebate or stimulus checks to most Americans. Additionally, two important business tax incentives also were part of the act, which was aimed at encouraging businesses to increase their investments in new equipment by the end of 2008.

As 2008 comes to a close, it is important to examine the two incentives and incorporate them, if appropriate, as part of the yearly tax planning exercise with your CPA. Under the new act, small businesses will be able to write off up to $250,000 of qualifying expenses in 2008. In addition, businesses also will be able to deduct an additional 50 percent of the cost of certain investments in 2008.

INCREASED SECTION 179 EXPENSING

Under pre-Act law, taxpayers could expense 100 percent of qualified assets purchased for business up to a limit of $128,000 for 2008. This annual expensing was reduced dollar-for-dollar by the cost of the property placed in service in 2008 that exceeded $510,000.

Under the Act, for tax year starting Jan. 1, 2008, the expensing limit increases from $128,000 to $250,000 and the investment limit increases from $510,000 to $800,000. It is important to note that the amount of the expense is still limited to the amount of taxable income related to the taxpayer's active trade or business.

This deduction will allow most small businesses to obtain a full deduction for the cost of tangible personal property (machinery, equipment, computers, furniture, fixtures, etc.) in 2008, thereby reducing the effective cost of those assets. For those who worry about the alternative minimum tax (AMT), there is no AMT adjustment with respect to property expenses under Section 179.

COMEBACK OF BONUS DEPRECIATION

Bonus depreciation was the hallmark of tax legislation that came out of Congress after Sept. 11 2001. Most of the bonus depreciation provisions, however, expired in 2004. The new act revives the same provisions for 2008. The impact of this deduction is enormous. CCH, a leading tax research service, estimates this provision will give businesses an additional $44 billion in deductions for 2008.

The act provides for bonus or accelerated deprecation deduction of 50 percent of the adjusted basis of qualified property placed into service after Dec. 31, 2007 and before Jan. 1, 2009. Bonus deprecation is allowed for AMT purposes as well.

To be eligible to claim bonus depreciation, the property must be: 1) Eligible for modified accelerated cost recovery system (MACRS) with depreciable life of 20 years or less; 2) water utility property; 3) computer software (off-the-shelf) and; 4) qualified leasehold property.

The bonus depreciation has another favorable impact on limits imposed on auto depreciation. For those intending to purchase automobiles or trucks for their businesses in 2008, the first-year limit on depreciation is increased from $2,960 to $10,960.

It is of vital importance to consult your CPA to understand the finer nuances of this act and implement the provisions in your tax planning for 2008.

Amol Nirgudkar, CPA, managing partner of Reliance Consulting LLC, can be reached at (813) 931-7258 or e-mail amol@reliancecpa.com




INDIAN JEWELRY LAUNCHES NEW SEASON AT ST. PETERSBURG MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
Story provided by MFA

More than 150 Indian jewelry objects from the 17th to the 19th centuries will be on display Sept. 13-Dec. 28 at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. "When Gold Blossoms: Indian Jewelry" from the Susan L. Beningson Collection is one of the most dazzling exhibitions ever presented at the MFA.

The exhibition is sponsored locally in part by the AT&T Yellow Pages. The St. Petersburg Times is the media sponsor.

As the use of the word "blossoms" in the title indicates, many of the designs draw on forms from nature. There are ear studs in the form of a lotus; armbands with petal-and-leaf weaving; a bracelet of jeweled fish set with emeralds and rubies; a tiger-head bracelet with enamel work set with rubies, diamonds, and pearls; and a cobra-head braid ornament set with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls. The bounty and spiritual dimension of nature dominate.

Not surprisingly, some of the most elaborate pieces in the exhibition honor Hindu deities. In a striking gold pendant for a deity, Lord Krishna sits on a lotus throne, flanked by his consorts Rukmini and Satyabhama. His hand is raised in a blessing. Other objects pay homage to Hindu kings, who were viewed as manifestations of or closely connected to the gods.

Susan L. Beningson has developed a major collection of Indian jewelry. She is both a collector and a scholar and a doctoral candidate at Columbia University. Selections from her collection were recently featured in The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India, organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

The exhibition is organized by the Asia Society and Museum, New York. The national tour of the exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts.

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS

India Family Day, Sunday, Oct. 19, 1-4 p.m.: Enjoy performances of Indian music and dance, as well as the exhibition. Create an artwork to take home. One Free Child Admission with each paid adult admission.

Collectors Circle Lecture, Friday, Oct. 24, 6:30 p.m., sponsored by Northern Trust: Theresa McCullough, director of Indian and Southeast Asian Art at Sotheby's, will discuss the exhibition. Before joining Sotheby's in 2006, she owned her own gallery, Theresa McCullough Ltd., in Mayfair, London, which specialized in Indian and Southeast Asian artworks.

Admission is $15 for the general public. The lecture is free for students with current I.D. after paying museum admission. Tickets are available at the door.

The Museum of Fine Arts is at 255 Beach Drive, N.E., St. Petersburg. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for those 65 and older, and $6 for students seven and older with current I.D. Children under 7 and museum members are admitted free. Groups of 10 or more adults pay only $8 per person with prior reservations. The MFA Café is open from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and the expanded Museum Store resembles an art gallery. For information, call (727) 896-2667 or visit www.fine-arts.org. For café reservations, call (727) 822-1032.




'THE RAMAYAN' TAKES STAGE SEPT. 26 IN FORT LAUDERDALE
Story provided by APAI

The Association of Performing Arts of India (APAI) will present "The Ramayan" Friday, Sept. 26 in Fort Lauderdale.

Adapting lyrics from the popular "Tulsi Ramayan" and the original "Valmiki Ramayan," Viji Prakash, the artistic director for Shakti Dance Company in Los Angeles, unravels the epic seamlessly from the birth of Rama to his coronation as king.

"The Ramayan" features dancers and musicians, including the doyen of music Lakshmi Shankar. Elaborate stage design, sets and costuming enhance the two-hour production of Shakti Dance Company. It also features soloist, Mythili Prakash, who has won much recognition worldwide for her bold and refreshing approach to Bharata Natyam. The cast of dancers includes Viji Prakash, Ajit Bhaskaran Das, along with 16 members of the Shakti Dance Company (www.shaktidancecompany.com)

The show will start at 8 p.m. at Parker Playhouse, 707 N.E. Eighth St. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $20 to $75.

For information, call APAI at (954) 885-1466, e-mail apai@apai.pmailus.com or visit www.apaiart.com




Kris Persaud, Jay Madhu and Paresh Patel pose in front of NASDAQ.
TAMPA COMPANY RINGS OPENING BELL AT NASDAQ
By AAKASH M. PATEL

Homeowners Choice Inc., a Clearwater-based insurance holding company, recently announced its expansion of operations in the Tampa Bay area. The company adopts property and casualty homeowner policies from the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance, which operates as an insurer of last resort for homeowners who can't find insurance on the retail market.

On Aug. 1, the company became a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ Stock Market under the tickers HCIIU and HCII, according to company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In an exclusive interview with Khaas Baat, board member Paresh Patel discussed the history of Homeowners Choice. "We set out to provide our fellow Floridian's insurance at a time when it was a difficult to obtain," said Patel. "The results of this are a successful company. It was an honor to ring the bell at the NASDAQ." Patel and fellow board members Sanjay Madhu of Davis Island, Kris Persaud of Boca Raton, Garth Vernon of St. Petersburg and Anthony Saravanos of Clearwater took a trip to New York to ring the opening bell of NASDAQ on Aug. 4. The company's IPO began at $11.7 million.

Other board members include Martin Traber, a partner with the law firm Foley & Lardner and George Apostolou, founder of George Apostolou Construction. Both serve on the Board of NorthStar Bank, along with Paresh Patel and Tampa philanthropist Dr. Kiran C. Patel.

Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty Insurance Company Inc. began operations in June 2007. The company plans to use $4 million from the proceeds of the IPO to increase statutory capital and surplus, $1 million for marketing and the rest for working capital. Today, the company which has many Indian shareholders, consists of 23,000 policyholders and has posted a net income of $1 million for the year ending Dec. 31, and $3.9 million for the quarter ending March 31.

Aakash M. Patel is the public relations coordinator for Phillips Development & Realty in Tampa. He can be reached at Aakash@phillipsdevelopment.com or (813) 868-3100.




Gurudev Yogi Amrit Desai
GURUDEV AMRIT DESAI TO HOLD 2ND ANNUAL YOGA SEMINAR SEPT. 19-21 IN TAMPA
Story provided by M. P. Ravindra Nathan

Gurudev Yogi Amrit Desai (Sree Amritji) is coming to town.

The Hindu Temple of Florida in Tampa is sponsoring Amritji for the second Amrit Yoga seminar Sept. 19-21 at the temple Community Hall, 5509 Lynn Road. The event will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 16, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20 and at 9 a.m. on Sept. 21.

The program includes discussions and demonstrations on Amrit Yoga, Pranayama, Yoga Nidra, Meditation and Satsang.

This integrative state of yoga taught by Gurudev is ideal for both beginners and advanced students. More than 200 people attended the seminar in 2007. In this new millennium, stress is a major cause of ill health. One of the attendees from last year said at the end of the seminar: "These three days of yoga and meditation relaxed my body and mind and was a great stress-buster. I feel so good now. A truly unforgettable experience."

For details and to register, contact Sherry Preston at sherry@rapfl.net or call (352) 428-0709; M. P. R. Nathan at ravinath@tampabay.rr.com or call (352) 799-3728; Nainan Desai at uc9n9n@gmail.com or call (813) 931-7442; Gaurangi Patel at gaurident@hotmail.com or call (813) 968-6038 or the temple at (813) 962-6890.


ORLANDO HSCF NEW AGE GROUP TO HOLD GRANDPARENTS DAY SEPT. 14
Story provided by HSCF

Three generations (grandparents, children and grandchildren) are invited to celebrate Grandparents Day at 1 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Hindu Society of Central Florida New Age Group event.

An essay competition will be held for children in the age groups 6-12 and 12-18. The topic is "WHAT GRANDPARENTS MEAN TO US." Length of the essay should be as follows: ages 6-12: minimum 100 words; ages 12-18: minimum 150 words.

The winner and runner-up in each group will receive a small cash prize. Each participant will receive a certificate. The entries must be sent by email and reach the following e-mail address by Sept. 9.

Subject of email should state: GRANDPARENTS DAY COMPETITION.

E-mail: hscfnewagegroup@yahoo.com. The participant should also indicate his/her full name, mailing address and telephone number.

Results will be announced on Sept. 14 when the program (1 p.m. to 5 p.m.) will include entertaining dances/songs by children, snacks, hot tea/coffee. The event is free.

For information, call Madan Arora at (407) 971-9259, Dev Sharma at (407) 862-9920, Surinder Kapur at (407) 645-1858 or Jayant Vaidya at (407) 977-1826.


2009 NISSAN MAXIMA MAKES FOR A THRILLING RIDE
By NITISH S. RELE - editor@khaasbaat.com



Maxima
Redesigned for 2009, the seventh-generation Nissan Maxima gets a boost of 35 horsepower over the 2008 model. Though the wheelbase sees a decrease of 1.9 inches, the width is up by 1.5 inches in the front-wheel-drive sports sedan.

Available in two trims (S and SV), the Maxima is equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that cranks out 290 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 261 pounds-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. The revised Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) with manual-shift capabilities is flawless. Front suspension duties fall upon a subframe-mounted strut with coil springs. The multilink independent rear suspension also is subframe-mounted with a stabilizer bar.

Need to slow down or stop in an emergency maneuver? The 12.6-inch vented front and 12.13-inch rear disc brakes are at the helm to take care of you. Eighteen-inch wheels, sitting on the unibody structure of the Maxima, are sized just right to handle the rigors of the daily grind.



Maxima
Contributing to the car's aggressive stance is a wide grille with the Nissan emblem, large bumper opening, bulging hood and chrome on the dual exhaust tips, door handles and a horizontal strip on the trunk door. The decorative alloy surrounds the analog gauges, vent rings and knobs, and audio switches. For 2009, Nissan designers moved the shifter lever closer to the driver for easy reach while the cup holders are to the right of the shifter instead of behind it. The three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel offers an unyielding grip. Other standard amenities are moon roof, 60/40-rear seat, eight-way power driver and four-way passenger's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, digital clock and metallic-tone trim on the dash and center console.

The Maxima isn't just any sedan. It's a sports sedan that makes for a thrilling ride, thanks to tremendous power and bold styling in and out. And with the redesign, Nissan has a winner on its hands to leave the competition in the dust.

Looking for a mechanic to maintain or repair your ride? Or buy or sell a car? Maybe some test-drive reviews of 2008 and upcoming 2009 vehicles? Then check out www.motoringtampabay.com. Also, available on the Web site is recent automotive news, listing of car clubs and shows/cruise-ins, tips on maintaining your car, etc.
Motoring Tampa Bay Web Site


COLUMN: OUT & ABOUT IN FLORIDA


OUT & ABOUT IN FLORIDA
By NITISH S. RELE - editor@khaasbaat.com

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 to meet the rising needs of businesses and our readers. Call Nitish S. Rele at (813) 758-1786 or e-mail us at editor@khaasbaat.com

COMMUNITY NEWSPAPERS HIGHLIGHT TAMPA BUSINESSES Vegetarian restaurant/stores, NS Food and Gifts and Ganesh Market and Chaat Café, both were featured separately but prominently in recent community publications of The Tampa Tribune.



A veteran cook who has catered for Indian families for about 15 years, Sushma Patel took over NS Food and Gifts last year. "Seven days a week, from 11:30 a.m. to about 3:30 p.m., large stockpots simmer on tables, emitting the spicy scent of soups and sauces," writes correspondent Elaine Markowitz in the Carrollwood News & Tribune. . "From the tiny kitchen comes the aroma of frying dosas and idlis, potato and onion rings, and other Indian delicacies."

NS Food at 5522 Hanley Road is open from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily with lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. For information, call (813) 243-1522.

Achyut and Sonal Mashruwala have owned Ganesh Market & Chaat Café on Armenia Avenue since 1996. An all-vegetarian buffet is served seven days a week. Jose Patino Girona writes in the South Tampa/Central Tampa News & Tribune: "Recently, the buffet menu included: cauliflower subji with green peas, green bell pepper, cilantro, cumin and cashew; dum aloo made with baby potatoes and curry; mung bean soup with garlic, green onions, cilantro and cumin; basmati white rice with peas and carrots; stuffed eggplant with bell pepper, tomatoes and sweet onions; and buttermilk served with yogurt, ice, salt and cumin."



Ganesh Market & Chaat Café at 6204 N. Armenia Ave. is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; and 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A vegetarian buffet is served from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. weekends. For more information, call (813) 873-8708. And during this wedding season if you have a need for pooja supplies, Indian tapestry, jewelry (wholesale only) and clothing, murtis, dance outfits, religious DVDs and CDs, incense and religious books, check out House of Ganesh at 11612 Nebraska Ave., Suite D, in Tampa. For information, call (813) 579-8205.

SINGH'S ROTI SHOP FEATURED IN ORLANDO SENTINEL

Scott Joseph of the Orlando Sentinel recently reviewed Singh's Roti Shop in that city.

"There are several different types of rotis," writes Scott Joseph. "The one I had at Singh's was made with flour and rolled to a thin round shape and cooked on a flat skillet. The roti can be eaten plain or, more often, with stuff inside. I had the channa roti, which was a simple filling of dried, crumbled chickpeas. A bit of ghee, or butter, added some moisture as well as flavor … The folks there were real friendly, too. Singh's is a good place for adventurous diners."

Singh's Roti Shop is at 5244 Old Winter Garden Road. For information, call (407) 447-3447.

MIAMI HERALD HIGHLIGHTS DOWNTOWN INDIAN RESTAURANTS

Thank you, Linda Bladholm, Fork on the Road columnist for Miami Herald, for that recent informative piece on downtown Asian restaurants, which cater heavily to cruise workers who dock at the Port of Miami.

The author of "The Indian Grocery Store Demystified" takes a look at four Indian eateries:

* Taste of Bombay, 111 N.E. Third Ave.; (305) 244-5080.

* Raja's, 33 N.E. Second Ave.; (305) 539-9551.

* Chithra's, 48 E. Flagler St., (305) 789-2842.

* Indian Prem, 255 E. Flagler St., (305) 371-7736.




SRI NITHYA MEDHANANDA SWAMI
MEDITATION – PART II

By SRI NITHYA MEDHANANDA SWAMI

Q: What is the difference between joy and bliss? Are they both same?

A: No, they are different. In Sanskrit, there are two words, Santosha and Ananda. Santosha means that when something from outside touches us, we become happy. This happiness is dependent on the outer object. If the object is not there, then there is no joy. Ananda means one that has no end. This is the bliss we are interested in, which is causeless. That is why if you see the lives of great Masters, they did not have any processions but they were in unshakable bliss. No one can snatch their bliss away from them.

Q: What is the influence of food on meditation?

A: Food has little influence on meditation. Serious mediators have always been following Satvik food, which excludes non-vegetarian, alcohol, onion, garlic and green chilies. Onion, garlic and green chilies cause too many thoughts that cause more stress.

Q: Why is that I am not able to forget some of the past incidents? They bring misery again and again.

A: Because we hold on to these past memories. Imagine when you were a child you did a mistake in the school. You were called in the school assembly and your headmaster said that you are a fool. The whole school laughed at you. This creates a deep injury in your being. This gets stored in your unconscious. You keep recollecting this incident and the associated emotion too and go through the same pain. This way, the engraved memory gets its strength and reinforcement.

After so many years, you still carry the memory, emotion and over a period of time, develop vengeance against the headmaster. You don't want to let go of this and keep on holding on to this. After so many years, whenever you come across any other headmaster, the old memory and the emotion kicks in and you see this new headmaster, whom you are meeting for the first time, with a prejudice. You are not seeing things as they are, rather you are seeing things as you want them to be. Engraved memories make your life miserable and meditation cleanses our unconscious by removing the engraved memories.

Q: What is Prana? A: Prana is the subtle energy that is helping us to live. This energy is in three layers.

1. Basic Prana, which we get by food. That is why if we do not eat food in time, we feel weak.

2. The second layer is the emergency layer. For example, if a dog is chasing you, all of a sudden you get some additional energy to run. This energy is available in limited quantity.

3. The third layer is the cosmic energy which we can harness by meditation. When our mind rests, we access cosmic energy, which is in abundance. That is why, whenever you come out of meditation, you feel so energetic.

Q: What is the difference between mind and thoughts?

A: There is no difference. Mind is nothing but a set of our thoughts.

Q: Do we need a Master to learn meditation?

A: It always helps to be connected with a living Master. Your progress will be phenomenal when one is connected with the Master. Guru Krupa is important in spiritual growth.

Q: I have tried to meditate before, why it is so difficult to meditate?

A: Lot of people face this problem. Human body has a subtle energy, which is called Prana. When the flow of the energy happens without any blocks, then meditation happens smoothly. Because of the intense Samskaras, engraved memories, it's difficult to do meditation especially if it is a silent technique. Little bit of cleansing needs to happen so that silence will happen on its own. That is why cleansing and energizing of Chakras, energy centers, is important before you actually start meditating.

Q: What is the main thing that is needed for someone who wants to take meditation seriously?

A: There are few things that are needed for meditation. Make meditation a daily activity and practice meditation with enthusiasm and joy; not as a daily routine. When we sit for meditation, imagine as if you are going to do the meditation for the first time. Have one specific place in your house for meditation. It is advisable that this place is not meant for anything else except meditation. Preferably sit in the same place and meditate daily as the place where you are going to sit gets energized.

Q: How do I know a particular technique is suitable for me?

A: Try few techniques and practice them with an open mind. When you encounter the right technique, your heart will tell you that you have found the technique that you have been looking for. Every time you come out of your technique, you will be energized and blissful. When you practice a technique that is not suitable for you, you feel drained of energy and lack enthusiasm.

Sri Nithya Medhananda Swami is a direct disciple of Paramahamsa Nithyananda. Medhananda conducts meditation programs all over the world and currently he is the vice-president of International Vedic Hindu University at Orlando. He can be reached at ask4bliss@gmail.com
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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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