Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


By NITISH S. RELE - [email protected]

Here are the Florida communities celebrating India’s Republic Day.

SOUTH FLORIDA (LAUDERHILL): The Indian Religious and Cultural Center (IRCC) will hold its Lohri/Republic Day/Kite Flying from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27, at Central Broward Regional Park, Corporate Shelter No. 1, 3700 N.W. 11th Place, Lauderhill. Kites and food will be available for sale. For information on the event, which is free to attend, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.irccflorida.com

TAMPA BAY AREA: The Federation of India Associations (FIA) of Tampa Bay will hold its Republic Day event on Sunday, Jan. 27, at India Cultural Center, 5511 Lynn Road, Tampa. Festivities for the free event will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with cultural talent shows from 2.30 to 6 p.m. Booths by member associations in respective regional languages will be set up. Food/vendor booths will be day long. For information, email [email protected]    

FIA has several other activities associated with Republic Day planned.

Activities on Jan. 27:


Florida communities are preparing to celebrate the festival of kite flying, which also is known as Makar Sankrant, Uttarayan, Lohri, Magh Bihu and Pongal. Here are a few:

SOUTHWEST RANCHES (SOUTH FLORIDA): South Florida Hindu Temple will hold Lohri celebrations from 7.30 p.m. with a bonfire on Jan. 13. The mandir is at 13010 W. Griffin Road, Southwest Ranches. For information, call (954) 252-8802 or visit www.sfht.org

TAMPA BAY: The Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay will celebrate Uttarayan from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 13, at Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. 301 N., Tampa. The event is free for 2019 GSTB members and $20 for non-members. Indian kites and manjo (thread) will be available for purchase. For more information, call Arvind Patel at (813) 784-7701.

Srigandha Kannada Koota will celebrate Sankranthi at 5 p.m. Jan. 19 at Hindu Temple of Florida, 5509 Lynn Road, Tampa. Members pay $12 and non-members $15, dinner included. For information, email [email protected] or visit www.srigandhafl.org

And on Sunday, Jan. 13, Sanatan Mandir, 311 E. Palm Ave., Tampa, will hold a Lohri/Uttarayan with Surya Narayan Puja from 5 to 7 p.m. For information, call the temple at (813) 221-4482.

ORLANDO/CASSELBERRY: The Gujarati Society of Central Florida will celebrate Uttarayan from 10 a.m. on Jan. 13 at Barnett Park, 4801 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando. Admission is free for members; non-members pay $35 per person. For more information, call (407) 924-7015 or email [email protected]

Lohri bonfire celebrations will be held from 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 13 by the Hindu Society of Central Florida, 1994 Lake Drive, in Casselberry. Admission is free. For details, call Neema Vedi at (407) 415-8501, email [email protected] or visit www.hindutempleorlando.org

Orlando Marathi Mandal will hold its Sankrant picnic from noon on Jan. 20. For details, email [email protected] or visit www.orlandomarathi.com/ 


By NITISH S. RELE – [email protected]

Photos by Nima Film, Javad

The idea was conceived three years ago by Ash Bagdy and his wife Kavita Jain long before philanthropist and businessman Dr. Kiran C. Patel turned their dream into a reality. Like several others that he has in the past.

Bagdy and Patel’s vision for an innovative high school was a meeting of the minds. “Our thoughts and vision were perfectly aligned, resulting in an instant marriage,” says Bagdy. “With his passion, leadership, vision and direction, we were able to power forward.”

Groundbreaking was held Dec. 13 for the two-story, nearly 58,000-square-foot Dr. Kiran C. Patel High School on a 32-acre plot in Tampa. Set to open in August this year, the public charter school will enroll 300 students in grades nine and 10, initially. Jain, president of the school, said, “We have a vision, one to educate and empower our students, and also become lifelong learners. Dr. K shares our vision for great education for us.”

Photos by Nima Film, Javad

The atmosphere and environment in the $20-million school project will be inviting for students. “It will not look like a school but like an Apple Corporation office,” said school vice president Mo Kasti. “Children will be sitting at round tables, around technology, and the teacher will be a facilitator. It will be project-based learning, partnering with communities and we need others to be a mentor in different projects.” The school’s curriculum also includes flipped classroom and leadership training.

As always, Dr. Kiran Patel struck a humble note in his speech. “I am overrated,” he began. “It is the efforts of everyone that make things happen. The most precious commodity God has given us is time. Money anyone can make. We should spend each minute in community work, building people’s lives. That contribution is priceless.”

Patel said besides writing a big check, committed and dedicated people are needed. “Education is the best gift you can give anyone,” he said. “We are all present here at this groundbreaking because of the opportunity of a good education. We want to provide a choice here since some kids and parents don’t have one because of economic conditions in their neighborhoods. We want to provide an option to those committed to education. All of us have contributed to make this school a reality.”

Patel thanked his children, who were present, for allowing “me to spend your inheritance. This is a team effort from our family, which is so fortunate,” he said. “America has given us a tremendous opportunity to be able to be a force of change. I thank God every day for giving me that opportunity.”

For more information on the school, visit www.patelhighschool.org 


Strong drive led Damyanti Gupta OF FORT MYERS to engineering firsts

By NITISH S. RELE – [email protected]

Damyanti and Subhash Gupta

Two great men of the 20th century inspired Damyanti Gupta to follow her dreams. That led her to become the first female engineer at the Ford Motor Co. A speech by Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and a biography of Henry Ford helped provide the impetus to her successful career.

A native of Sind — then in pre-independence India and now a part of Pakistan — the 76-year-old Fort Myers resident recalls the horrors of partition: “My grandparents and parents were brave despite losing everything. My grandmother told us, ‘Don’t try to control the uncontrollable, accept it and work hard where you can make a difference. Whatever God does is for good.’” Her family was wealthy, held land and were shop owners. They lost it all when they had to flee the emerging Pakistan.

To escape the escalating violence, Gupta’s mother’s cousin took the family on a late-night train to Karachi. Later, when she was 5, Gupta and her family took passage to Bombay on board cargo ships.

After brief stops in Muradabad and Bangalore, they settled in Baroda. When Gupta was 13, then-Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited Baroda and the girl found a seat in front to hear his speech. His message: “We have no industry, we need engineers. I am talking to you, little girls, consider this as a profession.” Although it was in the 1950s when the vast majority of women did not work outside the family, she returned home full of optimism and dreams.

She told her mother Gopibai Hingorani that she would like to become an engineer.

“My mother said, ‘You will get a good education, do your part, and I will make sure you get what you want.’ ” She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the Maharaja Sayajirao University. Then when she was 19, a biography of Henry Ford energized her dreams even further: “He said, ‘I want to deliver transport so reasonable that any family can afford my car.’ That’s when I decided I want to work for Ford Motor Co.”

The Gupta family

She conveyed the wish to her mother who informed her father, Jairamdas Hingorani.

At 22, she set sail for Germany where she worked for 10 months as an engineer before moving to Oklahoma State University. There she would be the first woman to graduate with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. With her degree in hand, Gupta pressed on to Dearborn, Mich. to fulfill her dream of working for Ford.

She was rejected during the first interview. So she went to work at Bulldog Electric, a circuit breaker maker for six months. Then she approached Ford again.

The hiring manager told Gupta there were no female engineers at the motor vehicle company. She replied: “If you don’t give me a chance, you won’t have any.” That did the trick. She was hired and stayed at Ford for 34 years working in such departments as emissions, engines and sensors.

She met her future husband, Subhash, in late 1967 before beginning the job. Coincidentally, Subhash also worked for Ford. Interestingly, her elder son, Sanjay Gupta, is a neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondent.

Gopibai Hingorani,
mother of Damyanti Gupta

Asked what conviction has carried her through her life, Gupta says, “Believe in yourself. Trust in yourself. Go with your guts, listen to your inner voice. Life has been good. Things happen for a good reason. If any woman is focused, has a clear goal from which she doesn’t deviate, she can achieve whatever she wants.

“ ‘Write down your goal before going to bed, read your goal,’ my mother used to tell me.”

After retirement in 2001, the couple moved to Fort Myers about five years ago. In addition to Sanjay, they have a son Suneel, an entrepreneur and lawyer, and five granddaughters ranging from 2 to 13 years of age.

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