Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


Here are the Florida communities celebrating the festival of nine nights:


The Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay will celebrate Navratri from 8 p.m. on Sept. 27-28 and Oct. 4-5 at Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. Highway 301 N. The event is free to GSTB members. There is a nominal parking fee. Sharad Purnima will be on Oct. 12 but venue is yet to be decided. For information, call GSTB President Arvind Patel at (813) 699-9680.

Sanatan Mandir at 311 E. Palm Ave., Tampa, will celebrate Navratri Durga Stathpana puja on Sept. 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. Navratri puja will be daily at 6:30 p.m. from Sept. 30 to Oct. 5. For details, call the temple at (813) 221-4482, email [email protected] or visit

Ambaji Mandir at 10991 58th St., in Pinellas Park, will celebrate Navratri with daily garba from Sept. 29 to Oct. 8 after aarti. Navratri Asthami is from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 6. For more information, call the Mandir at (727) 388-6685 or visit

Sri Laxmi Narayan Mandir will hold Navratri garba daily from Sept. 29 to Oct. 8. Navratri Asthami is from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 6. Sri Laxmi Narayan Mandir is at 4615 George Road, Tampa. For information, call the temple at (813) 444-9786.

SOIKOT (Bengali Association of Greater Tampa Bay) will hold Durga Puja from Oct. 4-6 at India Cultural Center, 5511 Lynn Road, Tampa. On Oct. 6, renowned singer Kavita Krishnamurti will perform at 5 p.m. at ICC. Tickets are $40, $100 and available at (727) 643-3691. For details, e-mail [email protected] or visit


PEMBROKE PINES: The Indian Regional & Cultural Center (IRCC) will celebrate Navratri from 8 p.m. Oct. 5 and Oct. 12 at Silver Trail Middle School, 18300 Sheridan St., Pembroke Pines. For information, call Dr. Durgesh Thaker at (954) 554-8739 or email [email protected]

WEST PALM BEACH: Palm Beach India Association will hold garba on Sept. 27-28 and Oct. 4-5 at Forest Hill Community High School, 6901 Parker Ave., West Palm Beach. For more information, e-mail [email protected]

SUNRISE: The Bengali Association of South Florida is organizing Durga Puja on Oct. 5-6. For time, venue and other details, email [email protected] or visit


The Gujarati Society of Central Florida will hold Navratri Garba from 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at Olympia High School, 4301 S. Apopka Vineland Road, Orlando, and Oct. 4-5 and Oct. 11-12 at Lyman High School, 865 S. Ronald Reagan Blvd., Longwood. It is free for members, $35 for non-members and $15 for students with ID. For information, call (407) 924-7015 or visit

Hindu Society of Central Florida (HSCF) temple will hold live music, raas and garba by Rawal Brothers daily (8 p.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays, 8 pm. to midnight weekend) from Sept. 29-Oct. 7 in the community hall, 1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry. Single day pass is $15 per person and $120 for family for nine nights. For more information, call Mahendra Kapadia at (407) 595-9224, Dr. Srinivas Seela at (407) 276-5407 or visit


The Bhartiya Samaj of Central Florida will celebrate Navratri at 8 p.m. Oct. 4-5, Oct. 11-12 and Oct. 18-19 at Bartow Civic Center, 2250 S. Floral Ave., Bartow. Tickets are $25 per person daily. For more information, call Subhash S. Patel at (863) 648-0294, Vinoobhai Patel at (863) 293-0942 or visit


The Gujarati Association of Manasota will hold Navratri from 8.30 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sept. 27-28 and Oct. 4-5 at Sarasota Middle School, 4826 Ashton Road. For information, email [email protected]


The India Association Cultural & Educational Center, 2030 N.E. 36th Ave., Ocala, will hold Navratri from 8 p.m. from Oct. 4-6 and Oct. 11-12. For details, e-mail [email protected]


Gujarati Samaj of Southwest Florida will hold Navratri on Oct. 4-5 and Oct. 11-12 from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Paul Lawrence Dunbar Middle School, 4750 Winkler Ave., Fort Myers. For information, email [email protected]


The Gujarati Samaj of North East Florida will celebrate Raas-Garba from 8 p.m. to midnight Oct. 4-5 and Oct. 11-12 at Jacksonville Ice & Sportsplex, 3605 Phillips Highway. For more information, visit


The Indian Association of the Space Coast will hold Navratri celebrations from 8 p.m. on Sept. 28, Oct. 5 and Oct. 12. For more information, e-mail [email protected] or visit

Also, Manav Mandir temple, 7400 Waelti Drive, Melbourne, will begin Navratri, Garba at 5 p.m. on Sept. 29. Dussehra will be celebrated from 6 p.m. on Oct. 8. For information, call (321) 426-0688 or visit

Disclaimer: Event details are subject to change. Please check with local organizers.  


By NITISH S. RELE, [email protected]

Named to honor a longtime Manatee County educator, the Dr. Mona Jain Middle School in Bradenton ceremoniously opened in early August. The $45 million facility can hold 1,100 students.

About 250 people attended the Aug. 8 opening where Mona Jain, 82, credited the community and school system for her namesake school. She spoke of moving to Manatee County 54 years ago and called its educational system “very progressive, innovative. One person can change one thing but all of us can change everything in a positive way if we all work together. This school is not (here just) because my name is there. I feel each one of us are equal contributors.”

As she dedicated the school to all members of the community, Mona Jain described education as a journey, not a destination. “We live in a multicultural society and my motto is ‘unity in diversity’,” she said. “There should be respect for human beings and for diversity since it is important to live in harmony.”

Jain put own sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom and charity on full display as she passed the baton to the next generation. “I am always learning from them,” she said.

David Miner, chairman of Manatee County School Board, echoed Jain’s thoughts. “Our strength comes from all of us coming together,” he said. “Dr. Jain brings the best of Indian culture that enriches our culture.”

Mona Jain has a Bachelor of Education degree in Biological and Health Sciences, and a bachelor’s in Biology, Chemistry and History of Sciences, both from Delhi University. At the university, she met her husband, Kailash. In 1964, the family immigrated to the Sarasota/Bradenton area to follow a Fulbright Scholarship she had won. Their daughter Anila was 5 years old at the time.

While Kailash ran import-export and jewelry businesses, his wife taught biology at Bayshore Middle and High schools before she became director of family health services for Manatee County’s Head Start program.

The busy mother then earned a Master of Science in Science Education from Florida State University. In 1984, she received a doctorate in interdisciplinary and educational leadership from the University of South Florida. Before that degree, she had earned a medical degree from Spartan Health Sciences University School of Medicine in Saint Lucia and an Education Specialist degree in Administration and Supervision from NOVA University. However, instead of pursuing a lucrative career in medicine, she chose to educate young minds.

The list of accolades and praises for Mona Jain would take pages. Briefly, though, she has won USF’s Distinguished Alumna Award and USFSM’s Distinguished Professional Achievement Award, and the Edgar H. Price Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award, shared with daughter Anila and several others.

She lives in Bradenton with husband Kailash and daughter Anila, a physician/medical consultant.  


By NITISH S. RELE, [email protected]

After eight months of construction, the Dr. Kiran C. Patel High School in Tampa has begun its “futuristic” programs designed to teach students how to discover rather than to just absorb information.

The two-story, nearly 58,000-square-foot school built on 32 acres in northeast Tampa has enrolled “a notch under 300 students (grade nine) and just a handful of seats are open,” school co-founder Ashok Bagdy said. He and his wife Kavita Jain conceived the idea. Other grades will be added each year.

“The parent feedback has been phenomenal,” he said. He shared one email: “Every evening, our son has lots of things to share on how he is discovering new ideas and learning new concepts. Traditional education method is about remembering concepts. Patel School teachers are enabling children to ‘discover’ new ideas & ‘develop’ new competency … Kids are learning by doing, discovering and developing.”

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran attended the Aug. 5 dedication ceremony, along with Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins and other dignitaries. At the event for his namesake school, Patel lauded family, friends, community leaders, businesses, parents and students. 

“I appreciate all of you for taking the time to come and celebrate,” he said. “A fundamental requirement for society to flourish is proper education of our kids, whether academic or technical. Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel. It is a process that encourages a child’s natural curiosity. At Patel High School, a teacher’s purpose is far greater than simply (to) deliver information. Our project-based teaching method, collaboration with peers and management of time give students the opportunity to participate at every level.”

Patel described the school as a place of inclusivity and opportunity for all to light a fire for learning. 

“Each and every one of you has a choice; you can take the path of least resistance, live a predictable life or take a trailblazer path, one less traveled,” he told the students in attendance. “Be from ordinary to extraordinary. You can do it if you choose it for you, awaken the artist within you. Become an innovator, a groundbreaker and blaze a trail for others to follow.”

Learning changes and transforms your community, Education Commissioner Corcoran said. “PHS isn’t just a high school, but it is also delivering hope and dignity.”

While students sat at round tables surrounded by the latest in technology, Bagdy described as unique the atmosphere and environment in the $20-million school: “We have an innovative curriculum, and leadership development and mentorship programs. We have a power hour, i.e., an hour of lunchtime, when all teachers are available, for tutoring also. PHS is an E-school, so there are no textbooks or lockers, all Chrome books. (It’s) what we call a Google school, very futuristic.”

PHS Principal Marlee Strawn seconded him. “We offer 21st-century skills for the workforce,” she said. “It’s a personalized-style education with project-based learning. We have a passionate and dedicated group of educators and students with a lifelong passion for learning.”

For more information about the school, located at 10721 Raulerson Ranch Road, visit 


Story provided by USF

Jugal and Manju Taneja with USF President Steve Currall.

The University of South Florida has received a $10 million gift from Taneja Family Foundation to name the USF Health Taneja College of Pharmacy. The donation, made through the USF Foundation, is the largest philanthropic gift to a pharmacy school in Florida.

As result of the gift, the Taneja College of Pharmacy will move into the new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute facility under construction in downtown Tampa.  The building is scheduled to open in late 2019, with pharmacy students tentatively expected to start classes there in fall of 2021.

“This is a thrilling moment and it is an honor to be here to celebrate another important milestone for USF, one of the fastest-rising universities in the country,” said USF President Steve Currall. “Jugal and Manju Taneja share a passion for education, for giving back to their community, and for transforming the health care system for future generations. This gift will do so much for the trajectory of USF’s success — advancing innovation at our College of Pharmacy and elevating the academic stature of the entire university. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that in recognition of this transformational gift, the USF Health College of Pharmacy will now be known as the Taneja College of Pharmacy.”

The USF Health College of Pharmacy was established by the Florida Board of Governors in 2009 and welcomed its charter class in August 2011. Today, the Taneja College of Pharmacy welcomes 100 new students each year for its PharmD program, and has expanded its offerings to include master’s degrees suited for students interested in pursuing a professional degree program, an advanced degree, a degree focused on research, or a degree for those interested in working in the pharmaceutical industry.

The gift marks a huge milestone for the young school and validates the innovative education experience offered to USF pharmacy students, said Kevin B. Sneed, PharmD, dean of the Taneja College of Pharmacy and senior associate vice president for USF Health.

This drive to revolutionize how pharmacists are trained is what attracted the Tanejas to USF.

“The way that technology is changing, the old way of compounding, the old way of discovering medicines, are going to go away,” Jugal Taneja said. “Now, medicines are going to be targeted for a particular disease. And pharmacists are going to play a big, big role in this. And for that, you have to education 21st century pharmacists and clinicians. That’s what we come here today to do.

“Making money makes you happy but when you give money to a cause, to an institution, or to places where money is needed, you gain a special kind of satisfaction. We were much happier and we were $10 million less! But we didn’t feel that – we felt $10 million richer.”

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