Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


TAMPA BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Celebrates Diwali Online 

Story provided by BAPS Tampa

Amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Tampa focused on bringing together the Hindu community through five days of virtual Diwali celebrations. During this period, the traditions celebrated are an opportunity to reflect and introspect on one’s personal, professional and spiritual growth.  

Diwali is celebrated on the first lunar phase of the moon, when the moon provides no light and the world is enveloped in darkness. The ancient practice of lighting divos, or traditional lamps, during the days of Diwali not only erases physical darkness, but also symbolizes one’s commitment to remove darkness – in the form of anger, greed, arrogance and resentment. The festival’s rich traditions and rituals marked by bright colors of rangoli (ornate designs made of colored powder), the lamps, the elaborate offering of vegetarian food (Annakut) to God, all mark a renewal of the good within and the goodwill towards all around us.

Many families would generally gather at the BAPS Mandir to celebrate this festival. However, due to all of the health and safety concerns this year, the BAPS organization provided live, interactive programs throughout the holiday season to bring the community together while suggesting activities that each family can partake in and share with others online. One such activity was the observation of New Year’s Day, which occurs the day after Diwali. BAPS mandirs the world over celebrate this day by offering Annakut (meaning of “Mountains of Food”) to the sacred images within the shrines of the mandir. The 100s of food items are generally made by followers of the faith in their homes and brought to the mandir. This year, however, families were encouraged to make fresh vegetarian delicacies and offer them to the images that are kept at home, with the same spirit and to share pictures of this and other Diwali activities online. 

Although no grand celebrations were held at the mandir this year, BAPS did offer limited viewings of the sacred images during the Diwali season. As a part of its ongoing Covid-19 response efforts, the organization’s humanitarian arm – BAPS Charities – organized a food drive and requested all who come to the mandir to bring non-perishable food items for pandemic victims. 

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One of the BBC’s most ambitious TV series makes its highly-anticipated U.S. debut on Acorn TV in December: An epic tale of life and love set in vibrant 1950s India, “A Suitable Boy” is an adaptation of the bestselling, 1,349-page novel by Vikram Seth. This six-part, six-hour drama tells the story of spirited university student Lata Mehra as she comes of age in North India at the same time as the country is carving its own identity as an independent nation and about to go to the polls for its first democratic general election. The series will premiere exclusively on Acorn TV in North America with two episodes on Monday, Dec. 7, and weekly episodes every Monday through Jan. 4, 2021.

This sweeping period drama is directed by Mira Nair whose previous works include “Monsoon Wedding,” “The Namesake,” “Mississippi Masala”. Shot in locations in Lucknow and Maheshwar, it features BBC’s first-ever all-Indian lead cast.

“A Suitable Boy” is a vast, panoramic tale charting the fortunes of four interwoven families across northern India in 1951 – four years after India declared independence from the British. Their stories play out during this tumultuous period and reflect the wider conflict between tradition and modernity at the time, as the series explores the country and its rich and varied culture at a crucial point in its history.

The central character is 19-year-old literature student Lata Mehra, played by Tanya Maniktala, who seems to have her life already mapped out, thanks to old traditions – and her meddling yet well-intentioned mother, Rupa (Mahira Kakkar), who wants to find her a suitable husband. Torn between family duty and the excitement of romance and inspired by rebellious Western writers and daring new ideas, Lata is determined to embark on her own journey of love and self-discovery as she decides her own future against the backdrop of post-Partition India. Over the course of the series, three very different men try to win Lata’s heart: the dashing, mysterious university student and star cricket player Kabir Durrani (Danesh Razvi), self-made shoe salesman Haresh Khanna (Namit Das) and lawyer-turned-writer Amit Chatterji (Mikhail Sen).

Other central characters include the charming but directionless Maan Kapoor (Ishaan Khatter). His behavior has been hugely disappointing for his father, the progressive Minister Mahesh Kapoor (Ram Kapoor), who can’t let anything unbalance his political career. However, when Maan becomes infatuated with the glamorous yet much older singer and courtesan Saaeda Bai (Tabu), the consequences could be catastrophic.

The score is composed by BAFTA-winning composer Alex Heffes with world-renowned sitar player Anoushka Shankar.

Acorn TV, a popular streaming service focused on British and international television, offers a 7-day free trial – sign up at

Bhaag Beanie Bhaag” (season 1, Netflix, releases Dec. 4)

Facing disapproving and concerned parents, a proposal-popping boyfriend and her own inner critic, aspiring comic Beanie ditches her comfortable but unsettled life to pursue stand-up comedy. Creators are Ravi Patel of “Meet the Parents” fame and Neel Shah. Stars Swara Bhasker as Beanie, along with YouTuber Dolly Singh and Ravi Patel, who also plays a comedian.

Regiment Diaries” (season 1, Netflix, releases Dec. 9)

Historical footage and interviews with soldiers showcase war stories, unique traditions and unifying principles of the Indian Army’s various regiments. According to Epic Channel where the series first aired in 2018, it is a tale of the Indian Army unlike any before. Told by the very men who follow the illustrious feats of their predecessors, “Regiment Diaries” relates “timeless tales that warm the heart, moisten the eye, and leave you in even greater awe of the bravest children of India.”

Torbaaz” (Netflix film, releases Dec. 11)

Starring Sanjay Dutt as Kunal in the lead, the action thriller is about a man, rising from personal tragedy, who changes the lives of a few children from refugee camps in Afghanistan by teaching them cricket. He challenges other coaches for matches and finally, faces the evil villain himself. “Refugee kids are the first victims of terrorism,” says Kunal in the trailer. Directed by Girish Malik, Nargis Fakhri and Rahul Dev also star.

Jay Mulaney of Lakeland voted Best Ophthalmologist of Central Florida

Dr. Jay Mulaney of Central Florida Eye Associates in Lakeland was selected as the Best Ophthalmologist in Central Florida. The Lakeland Ledger’s Best of Central Florida Awards, which is in its fifth year of existence, is presented to the physician or business that secures the highest votes from patients or clients as the best in their field and is a recognition of excellence of the service and experience they provide. Dr. Adam Gant, ophthalmologist at the Watson Clinic placed second, and Dr. Gary Schemmer of Advanced Eye Care Associates was third when winners were announced Nov. 22.

The Best of the Best in Central Florida chooses the best physician or business as it is voted on by a large number of independent voters, most of whom have had firsthand experience with the service provided by the physician or organization they have used.

While accepting the award, Dr. Mulaney said, “I am honored to be voted the Best Ophthalmologist in Central Florida. It has been a privilege to care for the health of the eyes of the people of Lakeland and the surrounding areas. None of this would have been possible without the passion for excellence and perfection that all my coworkers at Central Florida Eye Associates share with me. While the pandemic has presented a unique set of challenges to the practice of ophthalmology, the desire to do our best for our patients remains undeterred.”

Dr. Mulaney recently was the board Chairman of Lakeland Regional Health and Lakeland Regional Medical Center, an 850 bed tertiary hospital, one of the largest in Florida with the busiest Emergency Department in the entire United States. He has served in numerous leadership roles in the medical profession, including President of the Polk County Medical Association, President of the Medical Staff at Lakeland Regional Medical Center and President of the Central Florida Physicians Alliance. His community leadership roles have included the Chairman, Board of Directors of Volunteers In Service to The Elderly and as a Director of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce Board. Dr. Mulaney is a graduate of T.N. Medical College of the University of Bombay, 1982. He completed his Residency in Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, and Fellowships in Glaucoma at the prestigious Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami, and the Scheie Eye Institute, University of Pennsylvania.


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