Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


Such schools as this one in rural India will benefit from the Ekal Vidyalaya
donor appreciation concerts held all over Florida.

Ekal Vidyalaya Tampa, Orlando, Ocala, Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville chapters are set to hold their annual donor appreciation musical concert featuring Kaushik Deshpande & Group who will sing Bollywood songs; the Fort Myers, Lakeland, and Tallahassee chapters will feature Aditi Bhagwat & Group with the dance theme “Navrang se Navras Tak.”

EkalThe Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (www.ekal.org) strives for holistic development of villages through empowerment of tribal and rural communities in India with basic education, digital literacy, skill development, health awareness, learning modern and productive agricultural practices, and rural entrepreneurship. As a tax-exempt, non-profit organization, Ekal supports and runs non-formal one-teacher schools operating on a minimal $1-a-day budget in India.


Saturday, FEB. 24: India Cultural Center (ICC), 5511 Lynn Road, Tampa; 5:30 p.m. dinner followed by concert; for information, call Dr. Umesh Choudhry at (727) 507-0584, Dr. Jawahar Taunk at (727) 480-3829, Dr. Chandresh Saraiya (813) 309-0647.


Sunday, FEB. 25: Windermere High School, 5523 Winter Garden Vineland Road, Windermere; 6 p.m. dinner followed by concert; for information, call Suresh Gupta at (407) 619-1500; Jayesh Patel at (407) 460-2020; Madhu Bansal at (214) 675-7994.

Dr. Mira Mahajan, right, owner of the
Golden Glow Medical Spa, presents a check to
Ekal Vidyalaya volunteers Monic Amin, left,
and Heather Amin during an Ekal fundraiser
at the medical spa. Money from clients
was matched by the spa resulting in a
$7,720 donation to Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation.


Friday, MARCH 2: India Cultural Center, 2030 N.E. 36th Ave., Ocala; 7 p.m. light dinner followed by concert; for information, call Nagesh Kohil at (352) 427-1542, Anju Vasudevan at (352) 239-2532, Nand Kumar Karve (352) 262-4027, Dipak Patel at (352) 266-2011.


Saturday, MARCH 3: Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center, 1770 Monroe St., Hollywood; 5 p.m. dinner followed by concert; for information, call Nirupama Kasam at (954) 235-8883, Shanti Viswanathan at (954) 937-3907, Senthil Kumar at (786) 245-1959; Shekar Reddy at (954) 895-1947.


Friday, MARCH 9: North Fort Myers High School Auditorium, 5000 Orange Grove Blvd., North Fort Myers; 7 p.m.; for information, call Anju Uttamchandani at (239) 994-7120, Dr. Shaila Singh at (262) 366-9369, Shirley Bharath at (239) 634-6668.


SAturday, MARCH 10: Shree Swaminarayan Temple, 2793 New Tampa Highway, Lakeland; 7 p.m. dinner followed by concert; for information, call Nilesh Patel at (863) 853-9315, Hiren Patel at (863) 255-8008, Abhay Shah at (863) 709-8335.


Sunday, MARCH 11: Lee Hall Auditorium, 1601 MLK Jr. Blvd., Tallahassee; 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.; for information, call Santosh Dixit at (850) 559-1080, Baskar Krishnamoorthy at (405) 269-7142, Deepak Haldiya at (850) 322-7700.


Friday, April 13: Bolles Middle School, 2264 Bartram Road, Jacksonville; 6 p.m. dinner followed by concert; for information, call Dilip Kothekar at (904) 537-6472, Krishna Hanchate at (904) 568-9141, Rajat Sharma at (904) 859-4576

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

ART By Brinda Pamulapati
If you don’t understand abstract art, it’s not your fault


IndiaFestThe 15th annual IndiaFest, put together by Palm Beach India Association, will be on Saturday, Feb. 17, at Meyer Amphitheater in downtown West Palm Beach. Admission is free.

According to organizers, IndiaFest is a way to celebrate the rich ethnic and cultural diversity of India with the South Florida community. Over the past decade, IndiaFest has become one of the premier events in South Florida, with more than 20,000 people in attendance.

Performers include Indian reality show Fame Gurukul finalist Rex D’Souza. The daylong outdoor event, which begins at 10 a.m., is free and open to the public. It will feature a yoga session by Bikram Yoga Studio of West Palm Beach; musical, dance and cultural performances; food, clothing, jewelry, henna and craft vendors; and art exhibits.

Meyer Amphitheater is at 105 Evernia St., West Palm Beach. For details, visit http://www.sfindiafest.org/ or e-mail info@sfindiafest.org



Raxit and Ketki Shah of Tampa recently made a $1.93 million in-kind donation to two temples, one in Ohio and the other in Florida. Both immigrated from India to Toronto in 1970 and moved to the United States in 1981.

Before relocating to Tampa, the couple lived in Youngstown, Ohio. Early last month, the Shahs donated $1 million in-kind to the Hindu Temple in that city. “As we lived for 25 years in Ohio, our family has elected to donate $1 million to the mandir there,” said Raxit. They have long been recognized as generous philanthropists in the Youngstown community, including an in-kind building donation to Liberty Township in 2005 valued at $800,000.

The other $930,000 in-kind donation went to the VYO-USA (Vallabh Youth Organization) Temple Tampa chapter, 5801 Lynn Road. Bhitti Patel, president and trustee of VYO-USA Inc. in Tampa, acknowledged the gift from the Shah family as the single largest donation in its history. She noted that the proceeds from the in-kind donation will be used to improve temple facilities and infrastructure. VYO (Vallabh Youth Organization) is a platform where youth’s ideology can be enhanced with spirituality by blessings of Pujya Goswami 108 Shri Vrajrajkumarji Mahodayshri.

“Raxit and I are proud of the legacy we are helping create for VYO-USA Tampa,” said Ketki. “As residents of Tampa for nearly 18 years, our business platform and our family’s roots are established in this community, and it is our responsibility to help support those things that are most important to us. We are honored to provide an in-kind donation to the VYO-USA Tampa temple.” Ketki and Raxit are devoted vaishnavs and make every effort to visit and meet with Shri PPG Mathureshji Maharaj and Shri PPG Vrajrajkumarji Mahodayshri.

Three decades ago, the couple established the Liberty Group, a vertically integrated hotel investment, development and management company. The firm is an approved owner, operator, and developer for premier brands, including Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, Intercontinental, Wyndham, and Starbucks Coffee.

Raxit continues to serve as Executive Chairman of Tampa-based Liberty Group, with his older son Punit serving as CEO. Raxit and Ketki’s younger son, Dr. Prem Shah, is President of Tampa-based Bristol Senior Living, a national owner-operator of senior living and Alzheimer facilities.




By NITISH S. RELE editor@khaasbaat.com

“It is said in zest that employment means 8 to 5. And if you have a business, you work 5 to 8. So, in employment, you retire. In business, you slow down,” says Anil Deshpande, entrepreneur and real estate developer in Orlando.

By no means is the veteran of more than 40 years in commercial, industrial and residential development and construction experience applying the brakes. Though he is not an active developer, Deshpande has numerous investments in United States and India, mostly in real estate, as well as in information technology, and also a mining company in Lakeland. And he is now into “finance construction,” with emphasis more on family, friends, grandchildren and the Deshpande Family Foundation, affiliated with the Maharashtra Foundation. Among some of the arts, social and philanthropic activities he is involved in are Bruhan Maharashtra Mandal of North America, Hindu Temple of Casselberry/Orlando, Asian Cultural Association in Central Florida, India Study Program and the India Center, both at University of Central Florida. “I am also involved in politicking on behalf of India. Then my own personal growth in terms of spirituality. So, I spend time reading, meditating, mentoring young people, even started Anthros Inc., which has been a good business.”

The down-to-earth and self-made businessman/entrepreneur is more than happy to speak about his humble beginnings. He recalls being born at home in a small town, Sangamner, near Nasik, a year before India’s Independence. “There was no electricity, no modern convenience but lots of temples,” he recalls. “At a young age, I knew the entire Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas. It was basic but good education. After my grandmother died, I moved to Mumbai and had some great teachers at the high school. Back then, people were respected for what they were and not for how much they had.” Thereafter, he moved to Baroda to earn a bachelor of science degree in Civil Engineering from Maharaja Sayajirao University. Then it was back to Mumbai to work for a small civil engineering firm where he got “great experience. We used to build high rises of India then, i.e. 20 to 25 floors. But pay was meager and opportunities limited for people with no connections.”


Anil and Chitra Deshpande

Deshpande wanted to follow in the footsteps of many of his friends who had immigrated to the U.S. Money was an issue then, so he put together scholarships, loans and received admission to University of Florida in 1971. After earning a master of science degree in construction management, he worked at jobs in Merritt Island, Lakeland and St. Petersburg, before settling in Orlando. In fact, he served as a project manager for the Orlando International Airport, which opened in 1981. “I always wanted to do my business,” he says. “In 1983-84, Braham Aggarwal wanted to move to Florida from Louisiana and that started our partnership for 20 years. Park Square Homes, a residential building and land development, was born, eventually becoming the 69th largest home builder in the country.”

With record sales in 2004, Deshpande elected to dispose of his interest in the company to pursue other opportunities. “After leaving Park Square, I didn’t know what to do,” he says. “My interest has always been that if the slate was clean, go with physics or philosophy. Circumstances made me an engineer and builder. It’s been a good ride, why not open up to other opportunities? So, I started a small family office, making some investments, and during the downturn, lost a lot of money.” But regrets, he has none it appears. In fact, there is “gratification from helping people flourish. So, enjoying life, traveling a lot, spending time with my wife Chitra to whom I have been married for nearly 40 years. Truly, without a good marriage, I don’t see how people can become successful.”

As president of Deshpande Inc., his business philosophy is simple and clear-cut. “It has to be legal and ethical. Other than that, our risk appetite changes, depending upon age. I necessarily have insisted on doing business with people I like. My partners have always been my friends. Good relationships can weather the storm. And people have always helped me. Of course, success is never guaranteed in business. Besides hard work, etc., no doubt the additional element of luck is necessary. The external forces are so formidable that everything has to align together. The journey has been good, bad, but always interesting. I have learnt to be grateful because you have nothing if you aren’t. The world owes us nothing.”

Anil and Chitra Deshpande have two daughters, one son, and three grandchildren.

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