Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

Happy Diwali


Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay is hosting a Diwali celebration on Saturday, Nov. 10, at India Cultural Center, 5511 Lynn Road. The event, which begins from 5 p.m., is free to GSTB members. For information, call Manish Patel at (813) 270-9896 or Ravi Patel at (727) 692-6399.

Ambaji Mandir at 10991 58th St., in Pinellas Park, will hold Dhanteras Mahalaxmi Pujan at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 5. Diwali Puja will be at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 7. New Year Annakut will be at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 8. For more information, call the mandir at (727) 388-6685 or visit

Laxmi Narayan Mandir, 4615 George Road, Tampa, will hold Dhanteras Mahalaxmi Pujan at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 5. Diwali Puja will be at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 7. New Year Annakut will be at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 8. For information, call (813) 444-9786.

Sanatan Mandir in Tampa will hold Dhan Teras/Laxmi Puja Monday, Nov. 5. Deepawali Puja will be at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7. Annakut Darshan will be the next day. The mandir is at 311 E. Palm Ave. For information, call (813) 221-4482 or visit

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir will celebrate Diwali on Wednesday, Nov. 7. The next day will be Annakut Darshan. Kids Diwali will be on Nov. 17. BAPS is at 9556 E. Fowler Ave. in Thonotosassa. For details, call (813) 986-5473.

Hindu Temple of Florida in Tampa, 5509 Lynn Road, will hold Lakshmi Pooja at 7 p.m. on Nov. 6. Deepavali cultural program will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Nov. 10 in temple hall. For information, call (813) 962-6890.

And Vishnu Mandir in Tampa will present a free Diwali variety show at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 3. Maha Lakshmi Puja at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 6 will be officiated by Pandit Vishnu Sharma. The temple is at 5803 Lynn Road. For information, call (727) 492-1010.

Shree Raam Mandir, 7411 E. Comanche Ave., in Tampa, will hold its annual Diwali from 6 p.m. on Nov. 3 The program includes songs, music, dance and drama. For information, call (813) 334-0443.

Maayboli Melawa Tampa Bay (MMTB), a not-for-profit organization for promoting Marathi culture, will celebrate Diwali from 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at HCC Brandon, 10414 E. Columbus Drive, Tampa. The event is free for MMTB members and $20 for non-member adults and $10 for children above 5 years. Visit for details.


FORT LAUDERDALE: The Indian Regional and Cultural Center will hold its Diwali festivities from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10, at Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. The program will include Bollywood, folk dances, IRCC Children Show, and dance competitions. Other attractions are food, fashion, jewelry, arts and crafts, henna, yoga, kids’ zone. Tickets are $10 (pre-sale online), and $12 (at the gate). Children under 3 years of age are free. For information, call Sanjay Gupta, CPA, at (954) 461-4003, Dr. Durgesh Thaker at (954) 554-8739, or visit

WEST PALM BEACH: And the Palm Beach India Association will hold a Diwali Night from 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Royal Palm Beach Community High School, 10600 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Member tickets are $15 and non-members $25. For details, e-mail [email protected] or visit

LAUDERHILL: Also, the annual Divali Nagar will be held from 5 to 11 p.m. on Nov. 3 at Central Broward Regional Park, 3700 N.W. 11th Place, Lauderhill. Entrance is $5 adults, kids under 5 are free; parking is $1.50. For information, call (954) 846-9895 or visit

BOYNTON BEACH/MIAMI: BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, 541 S.E. 18th Ave., Boynton Beach will hold Diwali and Chopda Pujan from 6 to 7 p.m. Nov. 7. The next day will be New Year’s aarti at 7:30 a.m. and Grand Annakut Darshan from noon to 7 p.m. For information, call (561) 740 2898.


Hindu Society of Central Florida (1994 Lake Drive) in Casselberry will celebrate Diwali and Annakut on Nov. 10 with a cultural program from 5 p.m. followed by fireworks and mahaprasad (8 to 10 p.m.). There also will be rangoli, Diwali greeting card and fruit carving competitions. For information, call (407) 699-5277, e-mail [email protected], or visit

Gujarati Society of Central Florida will hold a Diwali Dhamaka from 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Hyatt Regency Orlando, 9801 International Drive, Orlando. There will be social hour, dinner and entertainment. Tickets are $150 per person for members; $200 for non-members. For information, call (863) 651-4418 or visit

Orlando Marathi Mandal will be celebrating Diwali with group dances, songs, music and skits by local residents on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Hindu Society of Central Florida community hall, 1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry. For details, call Kirti Rege at (513) 236-2784, e-mail [email protected] or visit

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, 1325 W. Oakridge Road, Orlando, will have Kids Diwali celebration from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. Diwali and Chopda pujan will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 7 and Annakut the next day from 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. For information, call (407) 857-0091.


Bhartiya Samaj of Central Florida will celebrate Diwali at 6 p.m. on Nov. 11 at Bartow Civic Center, 2250 S. Floral Ave., Bartow. Tickets are $50 per person. For more information, call Subhash S. Patel at (863) 648-0294 or visit

Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Temple (ISSO), 2793 New Tampa Highway, Lakeland, will hold New Year aarti on Thursday, Nov. 8. Diwali Annakut celebration will be from 4 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 10. Family Funday will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 18. Lunch and dinner will be served. For information, call (863) 687-4776 or visit


The Gujarati Association of Manasota will hold its Diwali cultural program/dinner on Sunday, Nov. 11, at Braden River High School, 6545 State Road 70 E., Bradenton. Social hour will be from 4 to 5 p.m. followed by cultural program and dinner. It is free for association members; $25 per person for non-members. For information, call Bhumin Patel at (941) 773-4460 or visit


Shirdi Sai Florida Center, 4707 S. Pleasant Grove Road, Inverness, will hold Annakut prasad mahotsav on Thursday, Nov. 8. For timings and other details, call (352) 860-2181.


India Association of Fort Myers will celebrate Diwali from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Fort Myers Event Center, 1900 Park Meadows Drive. Tickets for current members are $25 and non-members are $35. For information, call IAFM President Suresh at (937)270-9596 or visit to purchase tickets.

Also, the Gujarati Samaj of Southwest Florida will hold its Diwali celebration from 6 to 11 p.m. on Nov. 17 at Fort Myers Middle Academy, 3050 Central Ave. It is free for members, $25 for non-members. For details, visit


Manav Mandir will hold Diwali celebrations at 6 p.m. on Nov. 7 and New Year festivities the next day. The temple is at 7400 Waelti Drive, Melbourne. For information, (321) 426-0668, email [email protected] or visit


Indian Cultural Society of Jacksonville will hold its Diwali party on Nov. 3 at Morocco Shine Center Auditorium, 3800 St. Johns Bluff Road S. There will be food, dance and music. For tickets and more information, text (904) 260-1273, email [email protected] or visit


Hindu Temple of Tallahassee will hold “Diwali Mela and Ravan Dahan” from 2 p.m. on Nov. 3 at Tallahassee Automobile Museum, 6800 Mahan Drive. There will be food stalls, kids corner and fireworks. Tickets (tokens) are $20 per family. For information, call (850) 629-9399 or email [email protected]



By NITISH S. RELE – [email protected]

DANNY GAEKWADConvenience stores, real estate, hospitality, information technology — we may be missing some — but Digvijay Gaekwad (fondly called Danny) has plowed those diverse fields to become a successful businessman and serial entrepreneur.

He’s a native of Vadodara (Baroda}, where his father was a judge. Gaekwad, 58, says, “I am from a royal family; ancestors were rulers. From 1721 to 2015, there have been only 244 Gaekwads born. So, we are a close-knit family.”

After graduating in political science from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, he moved to the United States in 1984, landing in the small town of Orwigsburg, Pa.

“The Cold War was going on,” he says. “America produced more entrepreneurs, most inventions, freedom, liberty while the Soviet Union was opposite. U.S. was an open book. That intrigued me since I was prominent in college in leadership roles.”

His marriage to his wife Manisha proved to be lucky in more ways than one.

“After marriage, she won a $50,000 scratch-off lottery ticket," he says. "We moved to Orlando since there was an opportunity to buy convenience stores as a working partner since I cannot take orders from anyone. I believe you should stand your ground, be confident and God will help you.”

Then it was on to Lake City for an eight-month stay before the couple decided Ocala would be home. That was 30 years ago and their sons, Karan and Kunal, were both born there.

Most people who know the Gaekwads are aware that Danny has always been involved in politics, but has never sought office. He has preferred staying behind the scene.

“I am 50 percent dedicated to politics and 50 percent to business. In 2004, I decided not to go around trying to chase politicians at fundraisers in other cities,” he says. “I am involved at the grassroots and want to invite politicians to Ocala so they can connect with us. I am vested and invested in local politics.

“I just want to make sure good people, Democrat or Republican, get elected and do good things. Once you get to know them personally, then their true nature comes out. I am passionate about Ocala. Yes, India is my motherland but here I am on my Karmabhoomi” (the land where one works).

Gaekwad is excited about his $20 million downtown Ocala mixed-use development project to consist of a five-story Hilton Garden Inn, restaurants and retail stores. Groundbreaking was in March for the venture to be built on the former site of a Chamber of Commerce building. Then there’s the $250 Gaekwad Village Project: 1,000 homes and 300 apartments at The Villages. There also are a $140 million St. Petersburg/Clearwater hotel in the works and a $10 million Tru Hotel by Hilton in Gainesville.

Closer to home for the busy entrepreneur are the Canterbury Apartments, a 304-unit complex in Ocala he terms the “highest luxury we ever built”; a new 76-room Holiday Inn Express; and the Ocala RV Camp Resort.

The project closest to his heart, though, is The Millionaires Tank,” ( to be based in the historic Church Street Exchange Building in downtown Orlando. Gaekwad bought the grand building for $14 million recently.

“The idea is to help young entrepreneurs so they can turn their dreams into reality,” he says. “It is basically a ‘shark tank’ style opportunity for companies looking for superior strategic partners with wealth and experience. You make your pitch to our panel of ‘super investors.’ We will have five judges, keep alternates, and for (the) first six months (they) can be seen on YouTube.”

His business philosophy? We ask. “Democratic,” he replies.

“Any business is welcome to pitch their ideas. Our core business is development and investments. So, if it makes sense on ROI, I will invest, but you also have to enjoy it.

“And I enjoy my 18 hours a day working away.”

Mulaney Auditorium IN LAKELAND Named to Promote Wellness, Education and Discovery

Lakeland Regional Health has announced the naming of the Mulaney Auditorium within the new, state-of-the-art Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children. The auditorium was named in recognition of Dr. Jay Mulaney’s longstanding leadership and support of Lakeland Regional Health, and in gratitude for the Mulaney family’s significant and sustained support of the Lakeland Regional Health Foundation.

The 300-seat, state-of-the-art Mulaney Auditorium provides a beautiful backdrop and technologically and acoustically exceptional venue for community and employee learning opportunities promoting wellness, education and discovery.

Jay Mulaney, a past chairman of Lakeland Regional Health’s Board of Directors, is a board-certified ophthalmologist and president of Central Florida Eye Associates in Lakeland and has served on the Lakeland Regional Medical Center/Lakeland Regional Health System Board of Directors since 2008.

He also has been president of the Polk County Medical Association, the Medical Staff at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center and the Central Florida Physicians Alliance. His community leadership roles include Chairman of the Board of Directors of Volunteers in Service to the Elderly and Director of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Mulaney has been named to America’s Top Ophthalmologists by the Consumers Research Council of America and has been included in the Consumers Research Council list of America’s Top Physicians. He was also included on Florida Magazine’s list of Outstanding Physicians in Florida. He also has served as a clinical assistant professor of Ophthalmology, University of South Florida and as a research associate in the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pennsylvania.

CALL 813-758-1786.
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