Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Florida News


By Shobana Daniell

The Hindu Society of Central Florida (HSCF) will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Dec 15 and Dec. 16 with several events. Though officially formed in 1987, the idea for the mandir grew out of casual get-togethers of a handful Indian families in Central Florida in the 1970s and 1980s. Hundreds of people have worked as a team to give shape to the temple, Dr. Muthusamy Swami, president of the HSCF executive committee, says, “The most memorable ones are the activities we do as a single community.”

Built in 2005, the ornate temple holds various religious, cultural, spiritual and educational activities. Major pujas, including Mahashivratri, RamNavmi, Balaji Kalyanams, Satyanarayan pujas, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chathurti, Dussera, Diwali, etc., are performed at the temple, which is open daily. HSCF conducts classical music, dance, yoga and also SAT tutoring classes attended by more than 100 students each year. Many pravachans are held for spiritual education of members.

The temple is a center for regional groups to meet, plan activities and help with the operations and events. According to Pallavi Patel of the Gujarati Society of Central Florida, “HSCF’s Hindu Temple is not only the place of worship but it provides us an opportunity to interact with the Indians of all regions of India.” This sentiment is also expressed by Ramasamy Ravichandran of the Muthamizh Sangam, “HSCF is a key umbrella organization in Central Florida that provides opportunity for all Indian region-based community organizations to interact, share our culture which helps our children maintain their roots to Indian heritage.”

The temple architecture is a popular educational field trip for local schools and colleges; every year, about 300 students visit the mandir as part of an academic program. Rollins College’s Judith A. Provost says, “Our class visits to the temple and our interaction with members of the Indian community have enhanced our knowledge and appreciation of Hinduism and Indian culture and traditions. Your open-mindedness and hospitable way with which you have welcomed us into your community reflect your commitment to religious pluralism and interreligious dialogue.”

The 25th anniversary celebration will include a fundraising dinner at Bahia Shrine Auditorium on Dec. 15; pujas and cultural program will be at the temple on Dec. 16. For more information or to participate in the two-day celebration program, call Mala Karkhanis at (407) 365-0985, Dipti Smart at (321) 695-4422, HSCF at (407) 699-5277 or visit

Saturday, Dec. 15
From 5 p.m. – Fundraising dinner at Bahia Shrine Auditorium, 2300 Pembrook Drive, Orlando.

Sunday, Dec. 16
At the Hindu temple, 1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry.
Sahastra Modakam Ganesh Mahapuja
8 a.m. – Nav kalasam Sthapana
9 a.m. – Sri Ganesha Abhishekam and Alankaram
10 a.m. – Sahastra Modakam Mahapuja
12:30 p.m. – Aarti
Puja Sponsorship: $51 and up
Cultural programs from 10 a.m. to noon. Mahaprasad will be served.

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Florida continues to be ranked seventh in the United States for its number of international students (32,567) attending colleges in the 2011-12 academic year. That’s up 9.6 percent from 2010-11. Most are from China (16.2 percent), India (11 percent), followed by Venezuela (7.3 percent) and Saudi Arabia (7.3 percent).

Ranked at No. 16 in the nation for number of international students, University of Florida in Gainesville has the most students from other countries (5,588) in Florida. In fact, UF is the only Sunshine State school among the top 20 for international students in the United States. A distant second is Florida International University (2,938) in Miami; University of Miami (2,530); University of South Florida (2,386) in Tampa and University of Central Florida (2,101) in Orlando area.

According to the Open Doors yearly report, published by the not-for-profit Institute of International Education, the number of international students, at about 764,495, attending U.S. colleges and universities represent the sixth straight year of record growth.

China numbered 194,029, which makes the Asian giant No. 1 in sending students to the U.S. at 25.4 percent. Coming in second at 100,270 students is India (13.1 percent) and South Korea at 72,295 (9.5 percent) of the total. In the Asian subcontinent, Nepal sent 9,621 students.

The number of Indian students in the U.S. in 2011-12 has dropped 3.5 percent compared to the previous year, marking two consecutive years of decline. From 2001-02 to 2008-09, India had been the leading place of origin for international students in the U.S. However, there was an 11.9 percent increase for U.S. students taking off to study in India. For 2011-12, 4,345 U.S. students went to India.

The top-leading host institutions in the country are University of Southern California (9,269) followed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (8,997) and New York University (8,660).

For more details on the study, visit

Photo by Vivek Sharma

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard, First Hindu Representative, Visits Orlando, Tampa

By Shobana Daniell

More than 100 Indian Americans from Central Florida gathered at Park Square Homes conference room on Nov. 18 to meet Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, recently elected from the second Congressional District of Hawaii. A Democrat, Gabbard enters the U.S. House of Representatives as the first Hindu-American legislator. She is in Washington D.C. for the freshman Congressional orientation and took the opportunity to come to Florida to meet Hindu/Indian Americans. She visited Tampa for the Asian American Convenience Store Owners Association (AACSA) convention before heading to Orlando to meet two local groups. Rep. Alan Grayson (D) of Orlando, officers of the Caribbean American group, Federation of Asian Americans officers and the African American community welcomed her. Local organizers were Braham Aggarwal, Anil Deshpande and Vishal Gupta.

A practicing Hindu, Gabbard campaigned on her experience as a former Honolulu city councilwoman and Iraq war veteran. As a member of the Hawaii National Guard, she served two tours of duty in the Middle East. She was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and currently serves as a captain. She was the youngest person elected in Hawaii history in 2002 at the age of 21 when she won a Hawaii State House seat. Two years later, Gabbard gave up her position in the Legislature to voluntarily join fellow soldiers being deployed to a war zone in Iraq.  

According to The Hill, 31-year-old Gabbard will take her oath over the Hindu holy scripture, the Bhagavad Gita. She hopes her faith will help strengthen ties between the United States and India, Hinduism’s spiritual homeland.


By Shobana Daniell

On Nov. 3, the Indian American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) of Central Florida held its annual Awards Dinner and Gala to recognize business and community leaders. “All the winners and the nominees have worked hard to make our community a better place to live, work and play” said Beena Parikh, president of IACC. The event began with a reception for more than 300 people, followed by awards presentation, dinner and entertainment. The highlight was an inspiring speech by Pat Williams, senior vice president of Orlando Magic. He detailed the seven keys to leadership and how to be an effective leader. This year’s IACC nominees for the four categories were a good example of his Williams checklist; they embodied the same winning spirit to set and achieve goals.

Pat Williams of
Orlando Magic

New Entrepreneur of the Year
Kashyap Sheth, left,
with Dr. Varesh Patel

Kashyap Sheth won the New Entrepreneur Award for his starting the Ultra Lounge in downtown Orlando in 2010 – just when the market had bottomed out. He forged ahead and made a success of the bar/club and now has branched into more ventures. Sheth graduated from Penn State University with two bachelor’s degrees in 2005 and worked for three years as a contractor with Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. He later completed his MBA at the University of Florida. 

Young Entrepreneur
of the Year
Vinay Rama, left,
with Sanjay Srinivasan

Vinay Rama won the Young Entrepreneur Award. In 2006, he became managing director of JHM International, a family-owned company, and was given the task of expanding the business into emerging markets such as India, Brazil and Argentina. Rama also started one of the first international private universities in Surat. It is in collaboration with the University of South Carolina and offers degrees in Hotel Administration, Business Administration and MBA programs.

Hindu Society of Central Florida
received the Distinguished
Community Service Award.
Posing with Dr. Varesh Patel, middle,
are HSCF Chairman of the
Board of Trustees
Ganesh Ramachandran, left,
and Dr. M.V. Swami, president
of the HSCF Executive Committee.

Hindu Society of Central Florida (HSCF) won the Distinguished Community Service award for being a beacon of strength, faith, and devotion for the community. It is recognized for outstanding contributions to making the Indian community sparkle with events that brought different groups together for India Festival, Navratri, Dussehra, and Diwali, which are open and free. HSCF also provides a community service by holding SAT tutoring classes, feeding the homeless project by youth, senior groups, health camps with Central Florida Association of Physicians from the Indian Subcontinent (CAPI) and seminars on topics of spirituality, health and common welfare of Central Florida.

Entrepreneur of the Year
Mahesh Shah, left,
with Tino Patel

Mahesh “Mike” Shah won the Entrepreneur of the Year. He left India in 1971 after a degree in architecture. Eight years later, he opened a motel in St. Augustine and then purchased his first gas station. Founder of Southeast Petro distributors, he is supplier of gasoline for a major oil company and owns hundreds of gas stations. He is a recipient of the 2012 Central Florida Humanitarian Award.

Besides presenting awards, IACC also donated part of the proceeds to Children’s Safety Village, a charity supported by Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who also attended the event. There were fabulous prizes for the silent auction and raffle tickets. A sumptuous dinner was catered by Tabla Restaurant and followed by dance. Sponsors were Century Link, Orlando Magic, Gaylord Palms, Occasions by Shangri-la, Tabla Restaurant and Digital Dream Studios.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings
attended the chamber dinner.

For more information, visit

CALL 813-758-1786.
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