JUNE 2014
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
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The annual Tampa Bay Rath Yatra (The Festival of Chariots and Dharma Sammelan) will be held Sunday, June 29, at Hindu Temple of Florida, 5509 Lynn Road. The festival, organized and celebrated by the Tampa Bay Rath Yatra (T.R.Y.) Association since 2006, will begin at 10 a.m. with the seating of Lord Jagannath, Balram and Subadhra on main stage followed by arati and puja. At noon, the Rath Yatra will begin on the set route near the temple and then return and settle in the temple hall. After mahaprasad, there will be a cultural program.

In India, the holy town of Puri, Orissa, home of the Lord of the Universe, Jagannath, celebrates this festival. The temple of Jagannath, also known as Krishna, in Puri is one of India’s major pilgrimage sites. The Festival of Chariots signifies Lord Jagannath’s journey from the forest into the hearts of people. The Rath Yatra in Puri will also begin on June 29.

Among the co-sponsors are Hindu Temple of Florida, Vishnu Mandir, Sanatan Mandir, Ambaji Mandir, Florida Oriya Association, Federation of Indian Associations of Tampa Bay, Alachua Hare Krishna Temple, Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay and Khaas Baat.

For sponsorship and aarti puja or more information, call Satish K. Sharma at (813) 877-2192, Rashmi Jakhotia at (813) 962-4172 or Kiron Senapati at (813) 340-2324, e-mail [email protected]

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PHOTO CAPTION: Bhoomi Trivedi

Since he moved from Pittsburgh to North Port six years ago, Dr. Jignesh Patel realized that there was not much going on in terms of preserving Indian culture in the Southwest Florida’s suburban areas. Joining hands with Dr. Manish Kapadia and other community members, Gulf Coast Gujarati Samaj was founded to achieve that goal.

With support of Indian community associations in Southwest Florida, “Yaadon Ki Baarat” is a first-of-a-kind event in Southwest Florida. Tickets start at $30. The low ticket prices are possible, thanks to platinum sponsor and pharmacy owner Anand Patel of Port Charlotte. Other local businesses are also supporting the event.

“Yaadon Ki Baarat” features singer Bhoomi Trivedi (of “Raam Leela” fame) along with Srikant Narayan (of Mohammad Rafi fame), Apurva Shah (of Kishore Kumar fame) and Rupali Ghogare. The 6:30 p.m. show will be at Charlotte Harbor Event Center, 75 Taylor St., Punta Gorda. For tickets, call Dr. Jignesh Patel at (732) 309-1292, Charlotte center at (941) 833-5444, visit www.ticketmaster.com or www.gcgsfl.org


DADA J.P. VASWANI Hema Malini returns to Florida, this time as the goddess “Durga” in a dance ballet June 22 in Coral Springs and June 27 in Orlando. Stunning costumes, music and accomplished dancers add to this live mythological spectacular.

A first-class performer in the Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi styles of dance, Malini is renowned worldwide for her interpretation of Durga. The choreography is based on the charitas (stories) from the Devi Mahatmaya and also from the common folklore of Sati, Parvati and Durga. The ballets by her company, Natyavihar Kalakendra, have thrilled millions of viewers.

Presented by Chabbria Entertainment and South Florida Hindu Temple, the Coral Springs performance is at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 22, at Coral Springs Center for the Arts, 2855 Coral Springs Drive. The 8 p.m. Orlando performance, presented by Chabbria Entertainment and Maa Durga Sri Sai Baba Temple on Friday, June 27, will be at Olympia High School, 4301 S. Apopka Vineland Road. Tickets for both the ballets start at $35. For information, call Sham Chabbria at (813) 786-3529.

INVERNESS Shirdi Sai Florida Center Inaugurates Hanuman Temple, dwarkamai

Trustee/Treasurer, ShirdiUSA

Every major function at ShirdiUSA has been blessed with a light rain or heavy showers. So it was, on the evening of April 18, as the ceremonies at the Shirdi Sai Florida Center in Inverness commenced for the inauguration of Panchmukhi Hanuman Temple and Dwarkamai. The evening activities included Ganga Pooja, Yagnashala Pravesham and Maha Ganpathi Pooja.

The next day began with Maha Ganpathi Homa Kalsha Seva, followed by Navagraha Homa and Rudra Homa. There was a constant singing of Hanuman Chalisa. In the evening, many devotees participated in the Navaratna Seva.

According to the scriptures, Lord Hanuman assumed this form of five faces to slay Mahiravana, Ravana’s brother. Lord Hanuman had to stub out five lamps burning in different directions simultaneously, to save the divine brothers. He therefore assumed the Panchamukha form to accomplish this task.

The Panchmukhi Hanuman statue was specially carved for ShirdiUSA by shilpies in India. It is more than 5 feet tall and weighs over 2,500 pounds. It took over two hours to get the statue in its final resting place.

Devotees from all over Florida and beyond began arriving at the temple early Sunday. The day started with Ashwa (horse), Gaja (elephant) and Gow (cow) pooja. The horse is a symbol for the planet Mars that represents energy and command. The elephant is a symbol of respect, honor, magnanimity and power. The Gaja pooja included offering flowers and food as the priests voiced appropriate mantras and chants. This invokes the blessings of Lord Ganesha. The cow is the symbol of love and symbolic of the Planet Venus.

Devotees participated in Ashwa and Gaja poojas and priests completed the Gow pooja. Pavamana Homa was taking place at the same time as the devotees were enthusiastically surrounding the elephant for a close look. The flames from the Homa were carried by the Pujaris to Dwarkamai to start the eternal flame in the Dhuni.


To the devotees of Sai Baba, Dwarkamai is one of the treasures of Shirdi. Before Baba's arrival in Shridi, Dwarkamai was an old mosque in a ruined condition. Baba turned it into Dwarkamai. The name “Dwarkamai” came into popular vogue only after Baba passed away but was first coined when a devotee once expressed a wish to make a pilgrimage to Dwarka, a town in Gujarat sacred to Krishna. Baba replied that there was no need as that very mosque was Dwarka.


Dhuni is the most significant part of Dwarkamai, as it is intimately associated with Baba. Dhuni is the sacred, perpetually burning fire that Baba built and which has been maintained ever since. Dhuni produces holy ash (Udi) which has the power to destroy evil. Baba generously distributed Udi to his devotees to protect them from maladies.

Once the Homa was competed, the head pujari at the temple, Subramanya, then rode on top of the elephant as the devotees with Kalashas on their heads followed. At the end of the procession, the ceremonies for placing the Kalash at the top of Hanuman Temple and Dwarkami began.

Both Hanuman temple and Dwarkamai were then opened for the devotees to pay homage. Almost a 1,000 devotees viewed the new Hanuman Murthi, huge paintings of Sai baba in Dwarkamai and Dhuni. The day’s activities were concluded with Arthi followed by Prasadam. Dr. Padma Reddy, president of the Temple, thanked the devotees for participating in the ceremonies and also volunteers for making this a memorable event.

To complete inauguration of the Panchamukhi Hanuman temple, there will be a Mandala Puja June 6-7 at the center, 4707 S Pleasant Grove Road, Inverness. For timing and other details, visit www.shirdiusa.com or call (352) 860-2181.



By NITISH S. RELE – [email protected]

Paresh Patel, left, and Jay Madhu of HCI.

In 2007, 76 investors – mostly Americans of Indian and Greek descent – put up $13 million to start a property and casualty insurance company. Coming as it did during the hurricane insurance crisis, it was a struggle to get the project in motion. “Although many people gave us checks, some said no to the investment,” said Paresh Patel, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer.

Today, the company trades on the NYSE under the ticker symbol “HCI.” Its largest subsidiary, Homeowners Choice, provides property and casualty insurance in the state of Florida and is the fourth largest insurer in the state. Homeowners Choice provides property and casualty homeowners’ insurance, condominium owners’ insurance, tenants’ insurance and flood insurance.

“There was an element of risk, but we were able to put the funding together because of the business plan and reputation of the people associated with it,” said Jay Madhu, HCI board director. Besides being one of the founders of HCI, Madhu’s responsibilities in the past have included marketing, investor relations, management and oversight of HCI Group’s real estate division. “Paresh was the lead and it all jelled together to create great success.”

HCI began its operations with a private raise of $13 million in April of 2007. In July 2008 in an IPO on the NASDAQ, the company raised an additional $12 million. Four years and a few additional raises later, the company moved to the NYSE. Today, HCI has annualized revenues of nearly $390 million, which translates into a market share of 3.5 percent with 160,000 policies in force.

Paresh Patel, center, is all smiles as his father
Suryakant R. Patel, left, and Jay Madhu cheer on.

At launch, HCI’s initial shareholders bought in at $2.50 a share, and currently the stock has a 52-week trading range of $28.73-$53.61, closing at $40.22 on May 27, 2014. The company also pays an annualized dividend of $1.10.

Last year, the company grossed $100 million before taxes. “In 2013, we assumed 34,000 policies from Citizens with $17 million revenue or, put another way, $7 billion in total insured value,” said Patel. “That would have been a game changer three years ago but today it is routine. Every month, we issue more and more renewals. In fact, we paid more taxes in 2013 than the value of our company just three years ago.”

Although HCI has grown considerably, Madhu cautions that progress at any cost is not good. “We are patient opportunists,” he said. Patel seconds that by pointing out that the firm is building for long-term growth on a stable basis.

What began as an insurance company is now under the HCI Group mother ship (with 400 employees), so to speak. Apart from Homeowners Choice Insurance, there is Exzeo, a software development company based in Noida, India, with 80 employees. Its web platform is not only used by HCI to manage homeowner insurance claims processes but now to also quote and bind policies within minutes. Another subsidiary is Greenleaf Capital, which is the real estate division of HCI Group. The division has more than $60 million of property, such as office buildings, and trophy waterfront property in Tierra Verde and Treasure Island. Claddaugh is the in-house reinsurance company owned by HCI.

HCI Group plans to continue being headquartered in the Tampa Bay area. Another personal goal for Patel is to “become a $1 billion capital company,” he said.

Considering the impressive growth HCI has since inception, we won’t be surprised if the company reaches its goal and beyond in a few years. Hats off to Patel, Madhu and rest of the team for a job well done!

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