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


Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali KhanHere are just a few of his hit songs from Bollywood films: “Jag Ghoomiya” (Sultan), “Sajda” (My Name is Khan), “Sanu Ek Pal Chain” (Raid), “Bol Na Halke” (Jhoom Barabar Jhoom), “Teri Ore” (Singh is Kinng); “Tere Mast Do Nainan” (Dabangg), “Jiya Dhadak Dhadak” (Kalyug), “Jag Soona Soona” (Om Shanti Om).

Pakistani musician Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, nephew of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and son of Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan, will perform the “Just Qawali” concert July 28 in Tampa. A renowned playback singer in Bollywood and the Pakistan film industry, his talent also extends to ghazals and other light music. That Rahat Khan is a born singer is evident; from the age of 7, he was trained by his uncle Nusrat Khan. He became a vital part of the qawali group, touring all over the world along with his uncle, lending his voice as needed.

Presented by Krish Patel, Satya Shaw and Apna Bazaar, the 8 p.m. concert will be at India Cultural Center, 5511 Lynn Road. Tickets start at $59 and can be purchased at www.bollywoodeventsfl.com For information, call Krish Patel at (407) 454-3334.


There are a little over 1.2 million international students studying at 8,744 schools in the United States with academic or vocational status, according to a biannual report on international student data, as prepared by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The report highlights March 2018 data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a web-based system that includes information about international students, exchange visitors and their dependents while they are in the United States. Based on that data (extracted from SEVIS March 5), the international student population decreased .5 percent (6,210 students) compared to March 2017, with 85 percent of students enrolled in higher education programs of study.

Seventy-seven percent of international students hailed from Asia. Among continents, South America had the largest growth in international students studying in the U.S.  

China and India continue to send the largest number of students to study in the United States, at 377,070 students and 211,703 students, respectively. There was a sharp decline in number of students from Saudi Arabia (-9,971), South Korea (-5,488) and Yemen (-396) while students from Pakistan were up 448, Burma 206 and Cambodia 109.

California ranks No. 1 with highest active international student population of 195,265 followed by New York at 138,751, Texas at 86,076 and Florida fourth at 59,644. New York University, University of Southern California, Northwestern University, Columbia University and University of Illinois are the top five schools with most international students.


India Fest dancersHere are just a few important dates you want to note on your calendar for upcoming events.


PEMBROKE PINES: The Indian Regional & Cultural Center (IRCC) will celebrate Navratri from 8 p.m. Oct. 13 and Oct. 20 at Silver Trail Middle School, 18300 Sheridan St., Pembroke Pines. For information, email [email protected] or visit http://irccflorida.com/grand-navratri-celebration/


ORLANDO: Gujarati Society of Central Florida will celebrate Diwali Dhamaka from 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10, at Hyatt Regency Orlando, 9801 International Drive. Festivities include variety of foods, social on rooftop terrace, entertainment by singer Bali Brahmbhatt, and a light show. For details, call (863) 651-4418 or visit www.gujaratisocietycfl.com


Organized by the Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay, the daylong 31st India Festival will be held on Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. 301 N. As always, booths will offer clothes, jewelry, film DVDs and music CDs, arts and crafts, photo studio and home décor. There also will be numerous eateries selling delicacies such as samosas, bhel puri, chicken curry, dosas and more.

In the entertainment area, performers will be adorned in colorful attire for four categories of dance competition – garba, raas, folk and bhangra. Several closed-circuit TV monitors will be set up so people can shop and eat while watching the dances.

This year’s India Fest chairwoman is Mina C.J. Patel. For information, visit www.gujaratisamaj.org

Check our Events calendar every month for a listing of statewide activities.

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



By NITISH S. RELE – [email protected]

Aakash Patel with Gov. Rick Scott

It would be a first for Hillsborough County, Florida’s fourth most populous. And that would be the election of an Indian American to the county commission. Aakash Patel of Tampa, the county’s biggest city, is determined to turn his first-time run for political office into a success. He has the backing of numerous political heavyweights such as the state’s Attorney General Pam Bondi and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, State Rep. Danny Burgess and Tampa’s very own Dr. Kiran C. Patel.

The 34-year-old Tampa businessman is running as a Republican for the countywide District 7 seat (after a last-minute switch from a non-countywide District 1), with 1.4 million Hillsborough residents. The primary will be held on Aug. 28 to determine the Republican candidate for the general election in November. So far, Patel has raised $450,000, the most ever by a first-time candidate in the county’s history. “I attribute it to the need for change and my track record in making relationships between community leaders. I have been knocking on doors, working on endorsements since I announced my candidacy more than a year ago,” he says.

#Patel2018 volunteers

Among the issues he is looking to tackle is transportation. “Let the citizens decide,” he says regarding a sales tax increase to solve road/transit issues. “We should rework our budgets, look at what’s feasible, have dedicated car pools. We can’t just build a rail (system), we need a plan.”

As chairman of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County, Patel believes in focusing on primary learning and after-school care, not just K to 12. As a small businessman, he says, “why can’t we use some of our $5 billion budget to have companies relocate here? Keep our talent here! Business community leaders have been leading the charge, not commissioners.”

Tourism is the No. 1 industry in Florida with 116 million annual visitors. “We have lost track of local tourism operators, though bed tax money was used to recruit events to come to our county,” Patel says. “We need to help grow and protect this vital industry.”

Fundraiser at Amish and Beena Parikh’s
home in Orlando

A 2002 Sickles High School graduate, Patel became involved in student government while at Florida State University, where he was “recognized for leadership. In college, I got the bug of politics after attending the Washington Leadership Program in D.C.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and English Literature at FSU. He had an inkling to get into public service but didn’t know when the opportunity would arise. After moving back to Tampa, he became involved in the INDO-US Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations. While working at the Westin Tampa Bay in Tampa and speaking to a friend, he realized there was a need for startup businesses to get help with their outreach efforts. Not long after, he launched Elevate Inc. in 2012, which today employs seven. The consulting firm assists businesses with their social media, community outreach programs, public relations and government affairs.

Patel’s appointments include serving on the Hillsborough County Citizens Advisory Committee, Leadership Tampa Bay, and Early Learning Coalition. The coalition gig “earned me the experience of managing budgets and working with government commissions,” he says. He won the Emerging Leader Award in 2017 from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. And when a breakfast with Hillsborough Commissioner Sandra Murman touched on the topic of Indian Americans running for political office, his interest was piqued. “I talked to everyone and became convinced that we need young, diverse representation from our business community,” he says.

Aakash Patel wins the Greater Tampa Chamber
Emerging leader Award in 2017

As for his opponents, he is ready to face any challenges. “I am running against one person who is going to attack me for my contributions to Democrats and my picture with President Obama,” he says. “I don’t regret it. I helped people who I think are going to do a good job in public office. I urge people at the ballot box, don’t look at party affiliation, look at credentials.”

Indian Americans in Sarasota, Orlando and Tampa have held several fundraisers for Patel. And he is appreciative of their efforts as well as support from Asian American Hotel Owners Association, Hindu American Foundation, the Indian American chambers of commerce, etc. “I will be the hardest-working candidate with cultural/family values. I think and know Hindus should be in government to effect change.”

Hobbies and interests? He replies, “Attending live sporting events, supporting local charities, volunteer teaching on importance of networking.”

For more information, visit www.patel2018.com 


By NITISH S. RELE – [email protected]

In 2003, it opened doors as a yoga and meditation center on a 2.5-acre land. Back then, there was just a Lord Shiv idol for worship and classes taught by Swami ChidghanAnand who resides in the ashram-based temple. Two years ago, it was Swamiji and Brahmrishi Mission founder Gurudev Brahmrishi Swami Vishvatma Bawra Ji Maharaj who blessed the land donated by disciple Mohini Lakraj and family of Orlando.

Shri Shiv Dham Hindu TempleToday, the Shri Shiv Dham Hindu Temple in Orlando has murtis of Lord Shiv, Shiv linga (Narmadeswar), Ganesh, Mataji Durga, Hanuman, Radha-Krishna and Naugraha. Just last year, it underwent a massive makeover. The temple hall is now 3,000 square feet and the kitchen can accommodate 150 devotees. New bathrooms and showers have recently been installed for those staying overnight for prayers and offerings. Across the street, the Lakrajs acquired and donated 4 acres. Another 5 acres will serve as a future school and community center.

“We were half of this temple before the recent expansion,” says Mohini Lakraj, who has been instrumental in the funding and building of the Shiv Dham. “With our Guruji Vishvatma and Swamiji’s blessings, we have sought to bring original Vedic teachings to benefit people. The point is for many years, people thought this was a private organization. We kept a low profile since this being an ashram, and never did fundraising. I believe in service. Even for two days if I didn’t do service, I felt my purpose in life was not worthwhile. It all comes from my heart, not made up. The temple is a place of sharing and giving.”

Looking to clear up any past misconceptions, Lakraj believes the future of the ashram is bright. “We invite people to be a part of it and would like for the community to help us with this journey and growth,” she says. “I personally have no personal agenda or connection to the temple, just trying to serve and have been actively doing so. And one day, I would like to see a huge school here that will grow like any other church or mosque.”

Swami ChidghanAnandSwami ChidghanAnand, who has living quarters on the mandir campus along with two other priests, was a computer engineer for IBM in Europe before he met Guruji Vishvatma of the Brahmrishi Mission. “I was always seeking the right teachings of Sanatana Dharma and had attended many Satsangs but was always looking to learn more,” he says. “I met Guruji in Holland at a yagya and soon was initiated into the mission by him. In 1995, he gave me sanyas before I served a little bit in England, then Canada and now here in Orlando at the Brahmrishi Mission branch.” The mission, which spreads the teachings of Vedic philosophy without discrimination of cast, creed, color, gender and origin, believes in “Wisdom, Love, Service.”

Shiv Dham at 460 O’Berry Hoover Road in Orlando is open seven days a week – 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekends. Schedule of weekly activities are: Shiv Abhishekam and Pooja on Mondays, Sunderkand and Hanuman Chalisa on Tuesdays, Yoga classes on Wednesdays, Guru aarti on Thursdays, Shri Lalitambika Pooja and Sahasra Naam Kumkum Archana on Fridays, Nava Graha Abhishekam and Sanskrit/Hindi/Sloka classes on Saturdays and bhajan, kirtan, lectures followed by aarti and lunch on Sundays. Also, every month, the mandir holds a Homam, Akhand Ramayan, Mata Ki Chowki, Radha-Krishna bhajans and a full moon katha.

For more information, call Shiv Dham at (407) 380-2661, email [email protected] or visit www.shivatempleorlando.org

Shkhar Sen
CALL 813-758-1786.
or write to

[email protected]
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