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FLORIDA TO HOLD INDIA INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS
By NITISH S. RELE
Indian Americans throughout the Sunshine State will be celebrating India’s Independence Day this year. Here are some of the communities that are honoring the freedom India won back from the British on Aug. 15, 1947.
AUG. 14: The Federation of Indian Associations of Tampa Bay (FIA) will hold a India Independence Day Charity Festival from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at India Cultural Center, 5511 Lynn Road, Tampa. Kalaivani Dance & Music Academy of Atlanta will present Fusion2 The Future. Admission is free. Numerous competitions such as middle and high school essay writing, youth general knowledge; mehndi and hairdressing, and fruit carving will be held from 10 a.m. to 4. Cultural activities will begin from 4 p.m. onward. There also will be flag hoisting, local talent shows and vendor booths.
Emphasis is on support for local institutions such as Metropolitan Ministries, The Children’s Home, Hillsborough and Pinellas county public schools. Attendees to the festival are urged to bring cans of food, non-perishable food products, school supplies and also can make cash donations.
Rashmi Jakhotia is the first woman president of FIA. This year, FIA is producing an “Indian Funeral Resource Book,” which will have information about all funeral homes with cremation facilities in Greater Tampa Bay area, checklist for cremation preparation, priest names and contact information, pooja samagri, list of volunteers who can help, and negotiated base charges for service, etc.
AUG. 15: The Hindu Society of Central Florida (HSCF) will present Festival of India from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on temple grounds at 1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry. There will be a health fair from 9 a.m. to noon. The cultural program will start at noon. Booths selling Indian food, jewelry and clothing will be set up. For more information, call HSCF Chairman Dr. Rajesh Patel at (407) 687-8576, HSCF President Sreenivas Jarugula at (407) 267-7595 or visit www.hindutempleorlando.org
AUG. 15: The Indian Cultural & Education Center (ICEC) Youth Group will hold India Independence Day celebration from 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. in ICEC Main Hall, 1115 S.W. 13th St., Gainesville. Lunch items for sale will be from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. For more information, call Neeta Someshwar at (352) 335-1433 or visit www.icec-florida.org
AUG. 15: The Indian Cultural Society of Jacksonville with celebrate India’s Independence Day at Lazarra Hall, University of North Florida, Jacksonville. The parade will be from 3 to p.m. with cultural program from 5:30 to 7:30 followed by dinner (free). For more information, e-mail IndependenceDay@jaxics.org or visit www.jaxics.org
MELBOURNE (SPACE COAST)
AUG. 14: The Indian Association of Space Coast (IASC) will hold India Day at Melbourne Auditorium, 625 E. Hibiscus Blvd., Melbourne. There will be a free community health screening from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The Independence Day celebrations will be from 4 to 10 p.m. On the agenda are a flag ceremony, parade, cultural program and live Hindi music by RARE Elements of Chicago. For more information, call CJ and Jigisha Shelat at (321) 258-5505 or Ravi Jeloka at (321) 446-3775 or visit www.iascbrevard.com
AUG. 15: The Association of Indians in America (AIA) South Florida chapter along with local Indian organizations will hold Indian Independence Day celebrations from noon to 3 p.m. at the Amaturo Theater in Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S.W. Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free. On the agenda is free henna from noon to 1; cultural dance and music and of course Indian cuisine. For details, call Uma Eniasivam at (954) 341-9346, Hovi Shroff at (561) 703-1878 or visit www.aiaflorida.org
AUG. 21: INDEPENDENCE DAY/UTSAV/INDIA DAY 2010; The India Association of Tallahassee (IATLH) will be celebrating Indian Independence Day, Utsav - a cultural program, and India Day – a food and handicrafts fair, between noon and 6 p.m. at FSU Moore Auditorium and quadrangle in front of Moore auditorium, FSU Campus. INSAT and FSU-Center for Global Engagement are co-sponsors. The event is open to public and admission to the cultural event is free. For more information, e-mail Thayumana Somasundaram, president of IATLH, at President.firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.iatlh.org
KHAAS BAAT COMPLETES 6-YEAR ANNIVERSARY
By NITISH S. RELE and SHEPHALI J. RELE
As we reach our six-year anniversary this month, we want to acknowledge and thank our columnists, writers and well-wishers for their help and encouragement. And of course, the business end of a publication cannot function without support from our advertisers.
In the changing pace of print media, we are glad that Khaas Baat has filled a niche providing information that isn’t available in other medium. We will continue to do the same in future. However, we welcome your suggestions and any new ideas on how we can expand and better serve the Indian American community in Florida.
The month’s issue is packed with news and events, including the India Independence Day celebrations. Khaas Baat columnist and immigration attorney Dilip Patel explains the steps to take to surrender your Indian passport if you are a naturalized U.S. citizen (story, page 11). Also, do read our profile of Dr. Akshay Desai, president of Universal Health Care (story, page 17).
Community organizers, remember to email us at email@example.com about future events in your town. Remember, Khaas Baat is the ONE AND ONLY Sunshine State publication to offer comprehensive coverage of happenings in your Florida Indian community.
PANDIT HARIPRASAD CHAURASIA TO PERFORM SEPT. 4 IN FORT LAUDERDALE
Bansuri maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia will perform Saturday, Sept. 4 in Fort Lauderdale. He will be accompanied by Pandit Anindo Chatterjee on tabla and Mohini Athavale on tanpura. The musical concert has been organized by the Association of Performing Arts of India (www.apaiart.com)
Tickets for the 6 to 9 p.m. concert at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Amaturo Theater, 201 S.W. Fifth Ave., range from $29 to $125. Afterward, there will be a fundraising dinner ($75). A portion of the proceeds will benefit APAI’s educational and community outreach programs.
To purchase tickets or for more information, call (954) 462-0222 or visit www.browardcenter.org
DR. AKSHAY DESAI OF ST. PETERSBURG FOLLOWS FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
By NITISH S. RELE
Dr. Akshay Desai of St. Petersburg believes in Competence, Confidence, Conviction. Without them, he says, you cannot be successful. He should know. His is a success story that many likely would love to make their own.
From humble beginnings, Desai studied to become a physician, immigrated to the United States, acquired a practice and eventually became the founder of Universal Health Care Group, an HMO with reach into 16 states. As the CEO, president and chairman of the board for Universal, he now owns a building with a prime location in downtown St. Petersburg. In spite of such success, though, he hasn’t forgotten his employees.
“We are blessed by our 500 Universal associates,” says Desai, 51, the recent winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2010 Florida in health services. “I am thankful to our associates for their hard work, dedication and desire to propel the company to new heights. They give their best everyday to the company and our customers. For that, I am indebted to our associates.”
Bouyed by his employees’ hard work, Desai says he aspires to make Universal a public company in future. And although high unemployment persists nationally, he says his health care company is hiring for jobs that pay $35,000 to $100,000.
The road to accomplishment began quite modestly for the native of Valsad, Gujarat, whose family background is in teaching, farming and landownership. “I grew up in Surat and did my medical schooling in India,” says Desai, who came to the United States in 1983. “I received residency training at University of Illinois-Champaign and then a fellowship in geriatrics and a master’s in administrative medicine, both at George Washington University in D.C.”
In 1989, Desai moved to Florida to join St. Petersburg physician Jerry Culberson as a specialist in geriatrics. He acquired the practice within 10 months. “The doctor had a bypass surgery and was looking for someone to own the business,” Desai says.
American Family & Geriatric Care was born and soon expanded into multiple clinics in the Tampa Bay area. “We were successful in working with several hospitals, managed care companies such as Humana, WellCare,” he says.
In 2002, he established Universal Health Care as an HMO in Manatee, Sarasota and Hernando counties and gradually expanded into 40 Florida counties and to 15 states, among them Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. “The plan is to continue expansion and grow out footprints in an aggressive but wise manner,” he says with confidence.
In the next four years, health care in the United States will be transformed, Desai says. “We strongly believe in health promotion and disease prevention for our 100,000 members, of which 65,000 are in Florida. As part of our wellness program, we offer members free access to a gym, nutritional support and encourage healthy behavior with our unique Vita Life program.”
Unlike several other HMOs and physicians, Desai thinks the new health care legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Obama will give Universal opportunities to enroll more members. “The government will still need us as a partner,” he says. “There is definitely a role for the private sector and the American public likes the private sector.”
Desai may not have run for political office but he has been active in the political process for many years. “The decisions made in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., make a tremendous impact on our lives,” he says. “You can either be a part of the process or be on the outside. I prefer to be an outsider.” In other words, an elected office may not be an option but Desai has maintained close contacts with elected officials.
That began with Charlie Crist’s state senate campaign back in 1992. Subsequently, Desai watched Crist climb the charts to education commissioner, attorney general and, of course, governor. Desai serves as the chairman for campaign fundraising for Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Desai also has been close to the Bush family. Brothers George W. and Jeb have appointed him to state and federal positions.
Charity begins at home and Desai donates a significant amount of money to Boca Ciega High School “in a relatively disadvantaged neighborhood,” he says. Also, the American Red Cross and American Heart Association receive his support. Among the Indian charities he supports are Ekal Vidyalaya and Pratham.
Desai and his wife, Seema, have three children: Priyanka is earning a master’s in public administration at NYU Wagner School; Parth, who just graduated from high school, will be attending Wake Forest University in North Carolina; and seventh-grader Crystal. “Seema is a supportive, loving person and takes care of our family and home,” he says. “This frees me to conduct my business and indulge in politics.”
When he isn’t working, Desai enjoys dance, music, reading books (such as Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”), watching movies (his favorites are “The Godfather,” “Goodfellas,” “Wall Street,” “Nixon,” “Johny Mera Naam,” “Guide,” “Guru”) and traveling.
Living by his own personal code, the good doctor enjoys the fruit of his labor. Competence, confidence and conviction are evident aplenty when you meet the Universal Health Care group founder.
MAZDA3 IS THE PERFECT FIRST VEHICLE
Test-drive reviews by NITISH S. RELE
“Always the soul of a sports car” is the tagline the Japanese carmaker uses for its vehicles. But the label appears to stick to the agile Mazda3 more than to the rest of the lineup.
Redesigned in and out for 2010, the compact hatchback acquires an all-new 2.5-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder engine to replace the previous 2.3 liters. Horsepower is up by 11 to 167 at 6000 rpm and 168 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. The lively, fun-to-drive front-wheel-drive ride is available as a smooth-shifting 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission. Suspension is handled adeptly by an independent MacPherson strut front and an E-type multilink rear system.
Front and rear bumpers, grille insert, side-sill extension, mirrors and door handles are body-colored, giving the hatchback a bold appearance. Also noteworthy are bi-xenon headlights, clear-lens LED tail lamps, dual exhaust tips and a rear spoiler. The cabin offers standard dual-zone automatic climate control, three-spoke tilt/telescopic steering wheel, eight-way power driver’s seat, 60/40 fold rear seat, two front and rear cup holders and a sizeable front center console. The electroluminescent gauges for speedometer and tachometer, illuminated by red and blue colors with white needles, look cool. And kudos to Mazda for standard heated seats, a feature you will find in upscale cars though rarely of much used in the Sunshine State.
Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, Dynamic Stability Control, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, traction control, safety belt pretensioners and tire pressure monitoring system are standard. The 11.8-inch ventilated front and 11.02-inch solid rear discs assist to keep the small nippy car under check.
The inexpensive Mazda3 is the perfect first vehicle. It is quick, nimble and reliable though road noise at highway speed is pronounced. And more leg and shoulder room for
rear-seat passengers would be welcome.
MAZDA3 S GRAND TOURING
Wheelbase: 103.9 inches
Length: 177.4 inches
Tires: P205/50 R17 all season
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons
City: 21 mpg
Highway: 29 mpg
Base price: $22,000
Web site: www.mazda.com
HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY, Z!
Yutaka Katayama may not be a household name but you can shower accolades on the former president of Nissan’s U.S. operations in the 1970s. After all, he was instrumental in bringing the Fairlady Z, known then as 240Z, to the American roads. And what a ride it’s been for the icon, which debuted as a 2.4-liter single-overhead cam inline-6 cylinder engine with just 150 horsepower, 4-speed or 3-speed automatic transmission and 14-inch wheels in 1970.
Forty years later, the 370Z (as in a 3.7-liter V-6 engine) anniversary edition cranks out 332 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 270 pounds-feet of torque at 5200 rpm. The rear-wheel-drive coupe is equipped with a sole 6-speed manual transmission. And how can we forget those 18-inch alloy wheels? What a difference four decades can make!
Here’s what the 40th anniversary edition adds to the regular Z:
“Throughout the history of the automobile, a rare handful of cars stand apart as vehicles that not only capture the imagination of the world but also embody the essence of the automaker’s brand, engineering and ideals,” said Al Castignetti of Nissan. “The Z is just such a vehicle.”
We couldn’t agree more with Castignetti. Happy 40th, Z.
370Z ANNIVERSARY EDITION
Wheelbase: 100.4 inches
Length: 167.2 inches
Height: 51.8 inches
Suspension: double wishbone aluminum front; independent multilink rear
Steering: power rack-and-pinion
Tires: P225/50WR18 front; P245/45WR18 rear
Weight: 3,278 pounds
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons
City: 18 mpg
Highway: 26 mpg
Base price: $34,660
Web site: www.nissanusa.com
SUZUKI GRAND VITARA TOUTS OFF-, ON-ROAD CAPABILITIES
Not everyone looks to buy a four-wheel-drive vehicle. But if you in the market for a compact SUV with off- and on-road capabilities, then you cannot afford to pass on the 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara, which for the money is a bargain. Agreed, it doesn’t offer all the ruggedness and luxury of a Land Rover but the SUV is up to the job of taking you safely off the beaten path or confidently to tackle the rigors of daily driving.
A carryover from 2009, the Grand Vitara is equipped with a 3.2-liter V-6 engine that blasts off 230 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 213 pounds-feet of torque at 3500 rpm. It is mated to a dependable 5-speed automatic transmission. But best of all is a high or low range 4H Lock for off-road conditions. The full-time, 4WD also ensures that steep inclines can be securely negotiated via Hill Hold and Descent controls. And once you are on the highway or in the city, just switch back to 4H so the front wheels get traction as needed. Ground clearance is a laudable 7.9 inches as is tow capacity at 3,000 pounds.
Sitting on a unibody structure is a centered S in the huge grille, surrounded by dual horizontal headlights, vertical tail lamps and body-colored mirrors, door handles and bumpers, and 18-inch wheels. Black wood-grain trim accents on the doors and shifter area catch the eye as you slide into inviting leather seats behind a tilt steering wheel. Loading cargo and lots of it is effortless, thanks to 24.4 cubic feet of space with the 60/40 rear seat up or 68.9 cubic feet with the seat folded. Also standard is a touch- screen Garmin navigation system, driver information center, power tilt-and-slide sun roof, automatic climate control and a huge under-floor storage bin in the cargo hold.
Safety is paramount for Suzuki as is evident with standard dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag with rollover sensor, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control, traction control, keyless entry and start, front-rear ventilated disc brakes and tire pressure monitoring system.
With its remarkable off- and on-road manners (attributed to four-wheel drive) and the much-touted 100,000-mile, seven-year transferable power-train limited warranty, the Grand Vitara is a compact SUV we highly recommend.
GRAND VITARA LIMITED 4WD
Length: 177.2 inches
Weight: 3,876 pounds
Suspension: MacPherson strut front; multilink rear
Steering: rack and pinion
Fuel capacity: 17.4 gallons
City: 17 mpg
Highway: 23 mpg
Base price: $26,999
Web site: www.suzuki.com
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