Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

Florida News



He dons several caps: musician, composer, music educator and writer, and teacher. Meet Kanniks Kannikeswaran of Cincinnati, Ohio, who has founded and directed Indian American community choirs in his hometown, Bethlehem, Pa., Houston, and, of course, Tampa.

A native of Madras, the IIT graduate earned advanced degrees in engineering and business in the United States. “From an early age, I was exposed to Indian classical music,” remembers Kanniks. “But you take a deeper look at your roots when you are away. You start realizing the value of things you left behind.”

Back in 1992, he released an album “Tiruvarangam,” which are ancient Tamil hymns set to contemporary music. “The idea of a choir interested me,” he says. “We’ve bhajans but not an organized base or form of music. I believe in raaga vidya, which builds upon the core of commonality of various Indian music forms.”

In 1994, Kanniks formed a choir in Ohio. “I wrote ‘Basant,’ a celebration of spring,” he says. Thereafter, he collaborated with Dr. Catherine Roma for “The Blue Jewel,” a musical salutation (with chants in Sanskrit and Hebrew) to planet Earth, which received wide acclaim.

Then came the 150-plus member “Shanti A Journey of Peace,” a grand musical theater production and choral symphony, which earned accolades at its performances in Bethlehem, Pa., and Houston.

In 2009, “Chitram – A Portrait of India” was presented in Tampa. The 80-minute-long theater production tells the story of India’s cultural history using choral music, dances and powerful visuals. Just a year later, “Chitram” was repeated in Tampa and has also been presented in Cincinnati and Dayton, Fort Lauderdale/Miramar, and Dearborn, Mich.

At present, in Florida, Kanniks is putting together a Sanskruti choir, which meets twice a month in the Tampa Bay area. He visits Tampa once in six weeks to teach and guide the choir. Local singers step in to lead the choir when he is not in town. When possible, Kanniks joins the practice via Skype. “We want to build a choral community express classicism through raaga-based choral music and timeless Sanskrit verses,” he says. “Sanskrit is one language that links all languages together; and Sanskrit and raagas link all of India. We know that there are more voices in the Tampa Bay area that can sing and we’d like more to join. Hopefully, this choir will perform at the World Choir Games in July 2012 in Cincinnati.” For more information about joining the choir, e-mail

Kanniks has choirs in Minneapolis and Cincinnati. There is a continuing interest in Houston, Allentown, Pa., and Fort Lauderdale to form one on a regular basis.

He has released a recording “Vismaya – An Indo Celtic Music Journey,” which features the first-ever compilation of 39 compositions of musician Muthusvami Dikshitar. And if you visit, you will come across information on more than 1,000 temples in India, courtesy of Kanniks who has published the work during the last nine years.

Kanniks teaches Indian music at the University of Cincinnati. He also is founder/director of the American School of Indian Art. When he has time from music (though it usually should be the other way round), Kanniks is a senior consultant in IT on business intelligence and data warehousing. He and his wife, Jayashree, have two daughters, Vidita and Sukhi.

For more information, visit

In a future issue, we will tell you more about Kanniks and his musical endeavors.


Neil Kamath, a rising junior at King IB High School in Tampa, was placed third in the nation in Public Speaking I category organized by Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda (FBLA-PBL). The largest and oldest student business organization held its National Leadership Conference June 23-26 in Orlando.

Participants from around the country attended to sharpen their core business skills, expand networks and participate in more than 55 business and business-related competitive events. The award was part of a comprehensive national competitive events program sponsored by FBLA-PBL that recognizes and rewards excellence in a broad range of business and career-related areas.
Neil, 16, was invited to attend the national event after placing first in Florida following his first place win at the district level FBLA competition.
Know of any youth who have won an award or have a recent accomplishment? Send in your news on youth to Shephali J. Rele, Khaas Baat, 18313 Cypress Stand Circle, Tampa, FL 33647 or e-mail Be sure to include school name, grade and age.


More than 400 people attended a party Aug. 10 for the launch of Vipin Mehta’s book “Awakening Spirituality & New Vistas of Life” at the Orlando Museum of Art. Present at the launch with Mehta, left, was Harriet Fullbright, publisher of Mehta's books on Global Healing.


Dr. Rao Musunuru

In 2009, the West Pasco Historical Society Museum and Library building in New Port Richey was at the brink of extinction because of the lack of funds in spite of repeated appeals to the community through various means.

Local benefactor and cardiologist Dr. Rao Musunuru stepped forward with a major anonymous pledge to save the museum. The City of New Port Richey provided some matching grant funds. Volunteers solicited donations and contributed thousands of hours moving, cataloging, packing up the collections and building out the exhibits. A professional curator was hired as a consultant.

Earlier this year, the West Pasco Historical Society Board of Directors took unanimous action to name the museum in honor of Musunuru in appreciation for his generous support at a critical moment in the society’s history and in recognition of his extraordinary medical, scientific, educational, philanthropic and humanitarian service to west Pasco over the past 30 years. The board also approved Musunuru’s request to name the library wing of the museum to honor the first president of the society, Julia J. Obenreder.

The Grand Re-Opening Open House will take place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, at the museum, 6431 Circle Blvd., downtown New Port Richey (near Sims Park by Orange Lake), beginning with a ribbon cutting. There will be food and entertainment and a “first look” at the refurbished exhibits. Inclement weather date will be the following Saturday, Sept. 17.

A Celebration Dinner will be at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 at Spartan Manor, 6121 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey. Dinner tickets are $30. Sponsorship opportunities are available. Donors will be recognized on the donor wall inside the museum. For reservations or information, call Bob Hubach at (813) 847-0680.

Proceeds from the Celebration Dinner will enable the West Pasco Historical Society to maintain the work that has been done and provide new and expanded opportunities to serve the community:

PEHCHAAN TO HOLD Mental Health Symposium SEPT. 17 IN TAMPA

Story provided by Sushama Kirtikar, Immediate past president, PEHCHAAN

PEHCHAAN brings a groundbreaking event in Tampa Bay, the first ever Mental Health symposium for the South Asian American community.

On Saturday, Sept. 17, PEHCHAAN will host “Creating Compassion and Sparking Hope,” a mental health symposium, from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the USF Concert Hall, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., free of cost, including lunch.

Why are we doing this? Most of us take mental health for granted: like breathing in and breathing out. Yet, it is one of the most complex issues affecting us. We want to shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness that touches many of our lives, but nobody dares breathe a word about it. We want to talk about these topics openly and give them the space and air they deserve.

What is this? It is a day’s worth of brilliant experts addressing issues regarding mental illness and wellness. Topics include understanding and treating conditions such as anxiety, depression, adult attention deficit, suicide prevention and pediatric mental disorders. We are excited to invite Suresh Unni, Ph.D., LCSW, board member of the Asian American Suicide Prevention Initiative of Chicago as our key note speaker. He brings both a clinical and personal perspective of someone touched by suicide. In addition, we have eight panelists from Orlando and Tampa.

What’s in it for you? You get to have a positive and upbeat experience; you get to listen to the experts shed light on these mystifying topics; you get to ask questions that you have been waiting to ask; and you get to interact with the professionals and others from the community. You get to learn about the wonders of latest treatment modalities, find courage in their proven efficacy and walk away with new found hope.
Will it be worth it? You be the judge. You do it for yourself, your spouse, your child, a relative, a friend, a neighbor, an employee. Whether you are a student, academician, clinician or patron, this symposium will open your heart and mind.

Everyone, at some point in his/her life is affected by mental health problems of one’s own or those of someone else. As Dr. William Menninger, co-founder of the Menninger Foundation said, “Mental health problems do not affect three or four out of five persons, but one out of one.” That means you and me.

For more information, call Sushama Kirtikar at (813) 810-2470, Nandini Bandyopadhyay at (813) 220 -5794, e-mail or visit


Swaradhana has successfully hosted three Indian classical music concerts this year. And there is more to come. Swaradhana and Center for India Studies at USF will present yet another classical vocal concert by renowned vocalist, Pandit Raghunandan Panshikar. He will be accompanied by Niranjan Lele on harmonium and Bharat Kamat on tabla on Saturday, Oct. 1, in Tampa.

Raghunandan, a senior disciple of the legendary vocalist Kishori Amonkar, is considered as the torch bearer of Jaipur Gharana. During the Tampa concert, he will also present light semi-classical Hindi bhajans, Natya Sangeet and Bhav Geet.

The 6 to 9 p.m. concert will be at Patel Center for Global Solutions Auditorium, 4202 E. Fowler Ave. (University of South Florida, CGS-101).

Tickets purchased by Sept. 28 are $25 per person (snacks, tea/coffee included). Sponsorship of $125 includes four tickets, snacks, tea/coffee and reserved seating). From Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, tickets are $35 per person. The concert is free for USF students with valid student ID (snacks, tea /coffee are for purchase only.) A ticket request form at must be completed. Non-USF students pay $15 per person.

For more information, e-mail or visit

Ganesh ChaturtiORLANDO TEMPLE Celebrates Ganesh Chaturti SEPT. 1-11

Ganesh Chaturti pujas will be celebrated in a traditional style at the Hindu Society of Central Florida (HSCF) temple in Casselberry at 9 a.m. Sept. 1 and end with Visarjan at 6 p.m. Sept. 11. 

The birthday of Sri Ganesh occurs on the fourth day of the fortnight of the waxing moon in the month of Bhadrapada in the Hindu lunar calendar (August-September). The temples – and many people at home – bring clay figures of the deity and perform special rituals for two days or in some cases 10 days, after which the deity is immersed into water. At the Casselberry mandir, Sri Ganesh Homam and Abhishekam will be performed every morning and each evening will end with Sri Ganesha Sahasranama Archana.

The Orlando Marathi Mandal will partner with the HSCF temple in conducting the pujas, make the daily prasad of modaks and laddos. OMM members have also planned a traditional folk dance performance at the temple hall on Sept. 11. That day, the Ganesh murti will be placed on palki/rath and taken in a procession around temple grounds and then Visarjan will be done on-site. The first and last day of this puja will include Mahaprasad.

HSCF temple, which recently celebrated its seventh year, will perform the annual Bhramotsav on Sept. 4. The temple has four priests who are classical trained for performing traditional pujas and have studied the holy texts for decades. They can conduct pujas in Hindi, Sanskrit, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. For more information, visit or call (407) 699-5277.

Anand and Roshni Patel with their three children.


It was a tiring Wednesday evening. Anand Patel, his wife and three children just settled back into their Jacksonville house after a family vacation to California. The 38-year-old settled into bed with his wife, not foreseeing the horrors to come.

The clock struck 2 and Patel, a physician himself, awoke his wife, “Roshni, take me to the emergency room!” For few hours, he suffered horrific abdominal pain. After extensive tests, Patel was told his diagnosis – cancer. A previously energetic and healthy guy, Patel could not believe he had leukemia. His life had changed in a blink of an eye.

Patel was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). This type of blood cancer requires one thing for a cure – a bone marrow transplant. In the past, the donation would require drilling into someone’s hip. Now, it only requires a simple blood draw – much like donating blood.

Patel’s family thought the cure is simple enough but the problem is finding a match, which depends on a person’s ethnic background. Basically, an Indian person will only be a match for another Indian. Unfortunately, few Indian people are registered to donate, which is easy. Just sign up on You will receive a free kit at home. Just swab the insides of your cheeks and send the kit back. It takes about five minutes. You could also have your cheeks swabbed at a local bone marrow drive, including at the venues below.

Time is running out for Patel, who is receiving treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. So, please register! If you are not a match for Patel, you may be able to save someone else's life!

Help join the bone marrow registry by attending any of the following drives!

Sept. 1 – University of South Florida (USF), 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa (outside the Marshall Center); 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; hosted by Delta Epsilon Psi.
Sept. 10 – India Cultural Center, 5511 Lynn Road; 5:30 p.m. onward.
Sept. 17 – International Curry Festival, Bayanihan Arts and Events Center, 14301 Nine Eagles Drive; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Oct. 1 – Fairgrounds Garba, Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 N. U.S. 301;
Oct. 8 – Fairgrounds Garba, Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 N. U.S. 301.

Sept. 3 – BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, 7500 Merrill Road; 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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