APRIL 2018
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

Florida News


A student robotics team from Odessa has advanced to FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship in Houston after winning first place at the FIRST® LEGO® League Regional Championship tournament in Plant City attended by 36 teams.

IvyBots, a FIRST LEGO League team of six middle and one elementary school students (Sahil Vaswani, Vineet Sharma, Dhruv Patel, Rohil Agarwal, Ronak Agarwal, Neil Babu, Rishabh Kanodia), will showcase their work and compete for honors at the FIRST LEGO League World Festival, part of the 2018 FIRST Championship, the world’s largest celebration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for students, on April 18-21 in Houston. Teams from nearly 90 countries will compete. Before that, they will compete in the Florida State Championship on April 8 in St. Augustine.

FIRST LEGO League is an international program for students created to introduce them to real-world engineering challenges by conducting research projects and building LEGO-based autonomous robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface. In the 2017-2018 HYDRO DYNAMICSSM Challenge, teams are exploring how we can improve the human water cycle. The competition is judged in three areas: Project; Robot Design and Core Values.

To qualify, IvyBots team created a natural, organic, cheap and home-made filter which is being branded as InstaFilter©. The filter is made of key components like Activated Coconut Charcoal, Alum (aluminum sulfate), Fine Sand and Whatman water filter paper. InstaFilter© is a portable water purification solution – better described as point-of-use (POU) water treatment. This product can be used anywhere there is a need to filter dirty and muddy water or even at home.

The group is trying to raise the funds for their travel to Houston. An official GoFundMe page has been launched at: https://www.gofundme.com/ivybots-trip-to-FIRSTWorldFestival

Team is supported by their two coaches (Abhay Vaswani and Puspha Vaswani) all the parents and Suncoast FIRST LEGO League Regional Director Desh Bagley. This win has given the team a sense of pride, self-confidence and has also taught hard work and focus pays off.


Tampa Cricket League (TCL), which has been conducting tennis ball cricket tournaments for adults since 2007, began its fifth youth cricket coaching program and youth league on March 23.

“TCL has been actively running youth program and youth coaching clinics from kids from 6 years to 14 years age groups,” said organizer Nitheesh Shetty. “We have successfully conducted four coaching clinics each with seven-week duration in which 150 kids participated.”

For the adult tournament this season, Shetty revealed that 36 teams will participate with teams/playing traveling from Ocala, Orlando and even Vero Beach areas. In 2015, the TCL worked with Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham to get a dedicated cricket ground at Evans Park, 1104 N. Kingsway Road, in Seffner (Tampa Bay area). The park has three pitches, two batting cages and lights for night games.

“We are also working with International Cricket Council to participate in its development programs,” said Shetty. “As part of that, we have Pranjal Gupta, former Singapore national player and associate professor at University of Tampa, who is a level 2 certified ICC coach.”

To participate in the eight-week youth cricket coaching program or for more information on TCL, call Nitheesh Shetty at (813) 767-7049, visit www.tampacricketleague.com


The Tampa Bay chapter of the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA raised about $227,000 on Feb. 24, enough to fund 620 one-teacher schools for needy villages in rural India. Versatile singers Kaushik Deshpande and Pranita Dasgupta Deshpande drew an audience of 750 to the India Cultural Center in Tampa.

“……….great music, great evening and fantastic food ……” commented Vira Prasad a Grand Sponsor for the event.” ………The best performance of Indian music in Tampa Bay! It beats a ticketed professional event hands down……..” said Dr. Jay Mulaney another Grand Sponsor and a longtime supporter of Ekal. At least 24 families and entities came forward to be Grand Sponsor level supporters contributing $5000 or more. Padmaja Ginde pledged to support 56 schools to celebrate her 56-year marriage anniversary. Dr. Yashwant Ginde gave a heartfelt report of their visits to Ekal schools in India.

EKALThe fundraiser, which was co-sponsored by the trustees of India Cultural Center, Florida Association of Physicians from Indian Origin, was part of a national fundraising effort by Ekal Vidyalaya. Tampa event organizers were the dedicated core of the Tampa Bay chapter – including President Umesh Choudhry, Vice President Malti Pandya, Secretary Sanjiv Jain, Treasurer Anuja Bhutada, Florida President Jawaharlal Taunk, Florida Vice President Vijay Patel, Florida Secretary Kaushal Chari, and former National President of Ekal USA, Chandresh Saraiya.

Two teams of musicians – Kaushik Deshpande and Pranita Dasgupta Deshpande in one team and Aditi Bhagwat and Kunal Tavri in second team – are visiting 70 cities over the course of four months to raise funds and awareness for the Ekal cause.

After the Tampa program, the Deshpande team went to Orlando raising $110,000 followed by Fort Lauderdale raising $50,000 and then Ocala raising $38,000. Bhagwat team started in Lakeland, entertaining an audience of 300 and raising $ 55,000, followed by Tallahassee entertaining 200 supporters at and raising $11,000. Jacksonville will host Deshpande team on April 13.

The Fort Lauderdale team of Ekal volunteers was led by Shekar Reddy. This year, they decided to support the victim families of Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland. Volunteers included Shanthi Vishwanathan, a teacher at Parkland School. Ekal supporters raised $50,000, which will be donated to the families of victims.

The 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.

Gift Establishes Association of Performing Arts of India Legacy Fund at FAU IN BOCA RATON

Michael Horswell, left, Dr. Deenbandhu
and Bharti Chokshi, Laurie Carney.

The Association of Performing Arts of India (APAI) recently made a contribution to Florida Atlantic University’s Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters to create the Association of Performing Arts of India Legacy Fund. The endowed fund will be used to promote and showcase the music and dance of India.

APAI (http://www.apaiart.com) was founded in 1998 by Dr. Deenbandhu and Bharti Chokshi, along with friends, to preserve and promote India’s classical music and dance, and to educate people of all ages in South Florida, including young people of Indian descent, about Indian traditional arts and culture as a living heritage for all. The fund at FAU was established to continue this important work through student academic and community programs in perpetuity.

“We are delighted and honored to be chosen to steward this important work of preserving and promoting India’s rich music and dance tradition here in South Florida,” said Michael J. Horswell, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “This effort fits perfectly into our University’s mission to be a hub for the diverse cultures and arts of the world that make our community such a vibrant and exciting place to live and study. I thank the Chokshi for their leadership over the years and for entrusting us with their organization’s legacy.”

APAI chose FAU because of a long working relationship with James Cunningham, Ph.D., associate professor of music and ethnomusicologist, and Clarence Brooks, associate professor and director of dance, and APIA Advisory Board Member.

“Since I met Dr. Deenbandhu and Bharti Chokshi in 2005, I have shared their dream of including Hindustani and Carnatic traditions from India into the curriculum of the Department of Music,” said Cunningham. “That dream has at last come to fruition.”

Over the past decade, APAI has supported numerous guest speakers in classical Indian dance and sponsored three courses in Bharatanatyam in the dance program. In the future, Brooks will offer dance classes in Bharatanatyam and other classical dance forms of India taught by experts in these genres.

“I am very pleased that future students will have the opportunity to study the classical dance forms of India,” said Brooks. For information, visit  fauf.fau.edu/PerformingArtsofIndia  


Angels Hug painting

Angels Hug

Indian-American artist and entrepreneur Brinda Pamulapati has lived in and contributed to the Tallahassee community for close to 20 years. Owner of the Venvi Art Gallery, she will present a new series of abstract acrylics on canvas, “Texture in Colors.” On view at her gallery April 6-May 12, this collection, according to Pamulapati, seeks to translate on to canvas the “light and dark shades in nature” through unique textures and varying values of color. Painting with her “gut feelings,” which have developed over the years, she chooses colors and textures “spontaneously.” She attributes her love of brilliant colors and color combinations to her Indian heritage, and many of her paintings, such as “Veena” (2017) and “Tabla” (2017), draw explicitly from Indian themes and imagery.

Pamulapati builds texture in her compositions using a process of underpainting and strategic layering of acrylic paints. Variations in hue fascinate her, she says, because of their capacity to create emotional depth and, as if through “magic,” make a two dimensional object appear three dimensional and vice versa. The paintings in this collection are characterized by dramatic contrasts, like the painting “Galaxy” (2014), whose sculptural texture seems to emerge elliptically from the center of the flat canvas, its universe of bold red and orange accented with flecks of cool blue and green. “Angels Hug” (2018) has a more organic composition. Its bright shades of pink and green grow like vines over a tinted dusty pink background. The juxtaposition of light and dark shades gives the impression of the satisfying contrasts of spring.

Table painting


Wanting the shapes and textures of her paintings to be distinct from anything visible in nature, Pamulapati seeks to move beyond the world of appearances to express and evoke emotion. She sees the vibrant colors that distinguish her paintings as therapeutic – as a means to create a “cheerful and happy atmosphere” that elevates the viewer’s mood. She seeks to “surprise the viewers,” who, she hopes, will walk away from the paintings feeling “happy, astounded, motivated, or inspired.”

This exhibit will be Pamulapati’s first solo show. The Venvi Gallery is at 2901 E. Park Ave. Information about the gallery, directions and upcoming shows can be found at www.venviartgallery.com or call (850) 322-0965.

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