MAY 2016
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

1st TAMPA BAY CLASSICAL MUSIC & DANCE FESTIVAL MAY 21

By NITISH S. RELE - editor@khaasbaat.com

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Pandit Nayan Ghosh

It is the first of a kind, started with the vision of turning into a grand tradition, something you don’t want to miss. The first annual daylong 2016 Tampa Bay Indian Music & Dance Festival will be held on Saturday, May 21, in Tampa.

Among the artists performing are Sangeet Natak Academy winner Pandit Nayan Ghosh on both sitar and tabla, vocalists Sangeeta Lahiri, Radharaman Kirtane and Lavanya Dinesh, Shankh Lahiri and Thiru Pant on tabla, Bharat Natyam dancer Tara Priyadarshani, Kuchipudi dancer Madhuri Gudla, and K.V. Mahabala on sitar, and others. Besides a dozen world-class musicians and dancers of the highest caliber, the all-day extravaganza, aimed at both Indian and non-Indian audiences, will showcase yoga, kirtan, henna artists and Indian food and merchandise vendors.

Shankh Lahiri

The event is presented by India Cultural Center and Tampa’s Shruti Foundation. Shankh Lahiri, founder of the Tampa -based, non-profit organization, envisions Tampa Bay will become a hub for Indian culture and a hotspot for high-profile musicians to come and perform. "Being a touring musician, I've had a long-held wish to have a family-friendly festival in my hometown of Tampa, where the focus is on celebrating the rich, musical culture of India,” he said. Lahiri hopes to bring the rich classical musical traditions of India for families to enjoy in a casual setting.

The festival is offered in two sessions, (11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.) each is $25 or $39 for both. VIP combo tickets are available for $50 at the door as well. Discounted tickets can be purchased till May 15 at www.shrutischoolofmusic.com for $20/session, $35/combo. Kids ages 12 and younger are free.

India Cultural Center is at 5511 Lynn Road. For more information, call (813) 549-9288 or visit www.theshrutifoundation.org

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SHANKAR EHSAAN LOY CONCERT MAY 13 IN FORT LAUDERDALE

By NITISH S. RELE, editor@khaasbaat.com

If you’ve never seen Shankar Ehsaan Loy on stage, here’s your chance. You don’t want to miss the only concert in Florida this month, set for Friday, May 13, in Fort Lauderdale. More than 2,000 people are expected to attend.

The musical trio of Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa has composed music for more than 75 films in several languages, including “Mission Kashmir,” “Dil Chahta Hai,” “Kal Ho Naa Ho,” “Bunty Aur Babli,” “Taare Zameen Par,” “My Name Is Khan,” “2 States,” “Katti Batti,” “Dostana 2,” “Rock On! 2” and the recent Marathi film “Katyar Kaaljat Ghulsali.”

Presented by Paracha Entertainment and Woodlands Indian Cuisine, the concert will be a tribute to two musical geniuses, S.D. Burman and R.D. Burman. The show, which also features a new generation of singers, begins at 8:30 p.m. at the recently renovated War Memorial Auditorium, 800 N.E. Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets starting at $39 can be purchased at www.parachaentertainment.com For information, call (954) 590-0955.


RICK SINGH STANDING UNOPPOSED FOR 2nd TERM AS ORANGE COUNTY PROPERTY APPRAISER

By NITISH S. RELE, editor@khaasbaat.com

Rick Singh, who was sworn in as Orange County Property Appraiser on Jan. 13, 2013, is up for re-election this year. Unlike four years ago, this time Singh is unopposed. At least, as we went to press.

Singh is the first person of Indian origin to be elected as the Orange County Florida Property Appraiser. Not only that, he is the first minority and the first ever state-certified property appraiser to achieve this title.

We sat down with the property appraiser to learn about the steps he has implemented during his tenure. “I focused on accountability to taxpayers,” he said. “Being an appraiser, I saw a lot of opportunity in bringing a business background to government. It is a sort of a unique perspective to run this office more efficiently. Since becoming county appraiser, I have operated 10 percent under budget on average every year and given back $3.6 million to taxpayers.”

Singh has also vigorously stepped up his office’s compliance program to ensure that everyone pays their fair share. “We hired qualified investigators to streamline operations in the Homestead Exemption fraud investigation department,” he said. “Our office gave back more than $550 million to the tax roll by pursuing false claims.” These included homestead fraud as well as Tangible Personal Property audits.

To bring more private sector mentality to the game and go green, Singh implemented a Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle lease program that will save taxpayers about $1.2 million over 10 years. Another focus has been on customer service. “We wanted to change the mindset on that too,” he said. “The customer is most important. When you visit us, the longest wait till is 2½ minutes. If you call us on the phone, we will answer your call in about 30 seconds. Previously, our customers didn’t know who the property appraiser was and what he did. We answered those questions by engaging our taxpayers, attending 600 events, setting up workshops and satellite offices in high-traffic areas.”

The appraiser’s web site – www.ocpafl.org – has also received a boost. The award-winning site, which gets 8.5 million visits annually, offers property values, information about nearby schools and amenities in a straightforward manner. Singh has taken up a paperless initiative to save taxpayers money. “Our appraisers use cutting-edge technology so real-time property assessments can be done quickly in the field,” he said. “So, we have made iPads available to our appraisers.”

Orange County, with cities such as Orlando, Lake Buena Vista, Winter Garden, Winter Park, Windermere, Apopka, etc., is a complex place for appraisers, being home to seven major theme parks, 14,000 timeshare units, and 90,000 hotel rooms. “We hired and trained expert appraisers (state-certified residential/general appraisers, among others) who brought a lot to the table,” said Singh. His office has appraised $33.1 billion in commercial property, that’s more than any other county in Florida.

A native of Guyana, Singh was just 10 years old when his family moved to New York City. After graduating from Aviation High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army to work on the weapon systems for Apache helicopters, including tactical devices and hardware for weapons like machine guns, grenade launchers, auto-cannons and rockets. He was honorably discharged in 1986.

He relocated to Orlando to raise a family as well as turn around a failing repair business Total Automotive. He also managed a family owned real estate firm, offering advice on investments, and managing home rental and upkeep.

Within eight years, he began working as a field appraiser in the Orange County Property Appraiser’s Office, assessing properties and defending the county’s position at the Value Adjustment Board. In 1996, he became qualified as a state certified residential appraiser, “which allowed me to open my own company, Abacus Appraisals, which hired and trained appraisers, servicing seven counties,” he says. Singh also was a real estate broker for the Century 21 franchise. And he has been active culturally in the community as a radio broadcaster and promoter of shows.

The Orange County Property Appraiser’s office has 140 employees, $12 million budget and assesses $148 billion assets. The appraiser’s election is set for Aug. 30, 2016.

Singh and his wife Davieca, a registered nurse, have a son, Avenash, and daughter Amrita.

For more information, visit www.votericksingh.com


FESTIVAL OF INDIA

The Casselberry/Orlando Hindu temple held its annual celebration April 2.

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