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Story provided by Dr. Renuka Ramappa

The 111h Annual Community Health Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, at the Hindu Temple Community Hall, 5509 Lynn Road, Tampa.

The volunteer-run community service has been a tradition at the Hindu Temple of Florida since 1998. Each year, the Health Fair, which is free to the general public, generates a tremendous response. There are typically 300-400 attendees 50-100 participating physicians. Physicians and volunteers alike work together to bring free screenings and health information services to the public. This year, several high school seniors, led by Ram Sundaresh of Land O' Lakes High, have been invited to help coordinate this event.

Medical services include free screenings for blood sugar, cholesterol, osteoporosis, and stress; evaluations of visual, auditory, and pulmonary function; information regarding anti-aging, mammography, self-breast exams, obesity, asthma and allergies; dental examinations, and more. Blood sugar and cholesterol screenings will be provided by LabCorp. This year, free screenings for varicose veins and glaucoma have been introduced.

One of the fair's highlights is the opportunity it provides attendees to interact with physicians, by asking field-related questions regarding nutrition, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, stress management, child health, menopause syndrome, bypass surgery, peptic ulcer, heart disease and more. Recently, fun-filled activities such as a moon walk and slide for the children have been added, as well as raffle door prizes. The fair will include booths with jewelry, clothes and Indian vegetarian food from the Prasad Sadan (the Hindu Temple kitchen).

For information, call (813) 962-6890 or visit

Shradha Nagaraj
Story provided by Krish Seetharaman

RasaJhari, a non-profit organization promoting South Indian classical dances, will present its first annual Jax Nrithya Mela on Saturday, May 23, in Jacksonville.

The two-hour long collage of dance performances will feature dances by students of six teachers in and around Jacksonville. In this and forthcoming Nrithya Mela programs, RasaJhari also will feature a dance artist from out of town. This year's feature artist Shradha Nagaraj is a budding artist from Mumbai.

The free event held along with the Hindu Society of North East Florida will be from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Greenland Pines Elementary School auditorium, 5050 Greenland Road, Jacksonville.

For more information, call (904) 268-1033.

Jagjit Singh

Legendary ghazal singer Jagjit Singh will perform during the Memorial Day weekend on Thursday, May 21, in Coral Springs. The 7:30 p.m. concert is presented by Woodlands Indian Cuisine in Lauderhill.

Tickets for the 'A Farewell Tour' are $25, $35, $45, $65, $75, VIP and V.VIP.

The concert will be at the Coral Springs Center of Arts, 2855 Coral Springs Drive.

On the eve of his latest eight-song album, "Inteha," Singh recently said: "All my fans have been asking for 'new' ghazals since a long time. This is my 'Inteha' of gratitude for all their love and support."

For more information on the Coral Springs concert, call Prasad at (407) 595-3205, Soham at (954) 746-7740 or visit

Keshav Murugesh

The INDOUS Chamber of Commerce in Tampa will hold its 10th anniversary gala, Banyan Ball, on Saturday, June 6.

The 6 p.m. event will be at the Tampa International Airport Marriott (free valet parking). Tickets are $125 per person and sponsorship opportunities are available.

Guest speaker will be Keshav Murugesh, president of Michigan-based Syntel Inc. Syntel is a global provider of Information Technology and Knowledge Process Outsourcing. Murugesh has been president of the company since Dec. 21, 2006, its COO since Oct. 1, 2004 and CEO this year.

Murugesh held several senior management positions in the areas of treasury, corporate funds, investments and diversifications, planning and joint venture.

The chamber also has invited the Indian consul general and ambassador, Florida governor and the mayors of Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg. There will be entertainment, business awards the featured keynote address.

For tickets or more information, call INDOUS President Francis Vayalumkal at (813) 719-0303, e-mail or visit

Thayumanasamy Somasundaram
Sunshine Census 2010 and our role
Story provided by Thayumanasamy Somasundaram, Member, Statewide Complete Count Committee

Counting everyone living in Florida is not only a big job - but it also is an important task. In April of next year, that is exactly what we have to do for the constitutionally mandated Census 2010; count all people living in Florida irrespective of their age, race, language, ethnicity and citizenship status. The federal government uses the Census data to allocate funds (~$300 billion) for education, public transportation, programs for the elderly and emergency food and shelter.

An accurate count of Florida's residents will guarantee that our state will receive its correct share of the funds.

About 19 million people are now living in the Sunshine State, and our population has increased by about 3.5 million during the last decade. Since Census 2000, there also has been an increase in the percentage of minorities such as Hispanics and Asian Americans, mirroring the increasing diversity of our state. With the increased diversity comes the challenge in reaching out to hard-to-count communities like new immigrants, students and new ethnic minorities.

As a member of the Statewide Complete Count Committee, I need your help in reaching out to all the members of the Asian communities. Please spread the word about the importance of Census 2010. Inform people that an accurate count will bring needed federal money to our state. Assure people that Census data is secure; no one except you have access to your data. Census data is confidential; no court of law can access your individual response. The Census Bureau does NOT share your individual responses with any other government agency - not law enforcement, not immigration officials, the IRS or any other group.

I urge you to participate in the 2010 Sunshine Census by promptly filling out the form when it arrives in mail in mid-March 2010. The more people are aware of the census the more likely we will have an accurate count - and the more likely our comparative response rate will be higher than the last census, (Florida's response rate was 63 percent, below the national average during Census 2000). For more information, visit or

Thayumanasamy Somasundaram is a member of the community-based sub-committee of the Statewide Complete Count Committee of the 2010 Sunshine Census. He can be reached at


Shephali with her mother

During the last few weeks of my mother's life as she lay in her hospital bed in December and various staff attended to her, my mother mentioned to them on more than one occasion, "You know, I don't remember my mother."

Of course, I knew that her mother died when she was very young. But what prompted that declaration at that moment? Was it just appreciation for the caring nurses or was this a realization she often felt?

For me, I have quite the opposite realization. It's tough to recollect a single significant moment of my life without remembering my mother's presence. For this, I am fortunate and grateful. From birthdays, school plays and graduations, to adulthood and the birth of my sons, she and my father are ever present in every important memory and countless insignificant ones. With that, I honor my mother this Mother's Day.

Though I cannot tell her these thoughts in person, I feel the need to acknowledge her existence in my life and hope she was aware of my feelings from my actions since the words were too often left unspoken.

If you have your mom close by or can call her, don't abandon this opportunity. Clichéd as it may sound, there truly is no better time than the present. We can't go back in time and we don't know what the future holds, so make the most of today and acknowledge the loved ones in your life.

A mother is your reason for being, the force that brings you into this world and shapes your role in it. Through her actions, words and example, my mother tried to teach me several important life lessons, too many to mention here. For this, I am ever grateful. Her guiding presence surrounds me in my everyday life. Almost everywhere I turn, I am struck by a memory or conversation with her.

With parents Hansa and Prahlad Joshi.
I credit my mother and father for everything they taught me. I can only aspire to be like them as a parent. Despite all the difficulties they must have had to overcome, leaving behind family and all things familiar to settle in a new land with its unique customs, they were able to pass on to me, while growing up in the Midwest, our cultural values and pride for our Indian heritage along with a respect for all traditions. Of course, we had our share of disagreements through the years as every mother and daughter surely must, I always felt loved unconditionally. And isn't loving your child unconditionally one of a mother's most important responsibilities?

For everything my mother did for me even after I had my own family responsibilities, I truly felt lucky and grateful. While I can honestly say I didn't take her for granted, I did take for granted her ongoing presence in my life. To imagine a day, month or the rest of my life without her presence is still not quite possible for me. It's like standing at the edge of a gigantic space of emptiness with no means to get to the other side. The reality of her loss still strikes me in sudden flashes of tangible pain. And as I wade through the pool of grief, it brings me solace to speak about her, remember her and honor her.

Because of her, I am. And as a friend told me, because I came from her, she exists through me. So, going forward instead of recalling the weak cancer-ravaged person she became, I will try to remember and honor the strong, independent spirit that she was.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, grandmothers and aunts.

Shephali J. Rele is the associate editor of Khaas Baat. Her mother, Hansa P. Joshi, passed away in January after a brief, courageous battle with cancer.

Andy Gangadharan
Story provided by Fifth Third Bank

Andy Gangadharan recently joined Fifth Third Bank as vice president and wealth management advisor for the Tampa Bay market. In his new role, Gangadharan will serve as a coordinator and trusted advisor for clients with more than $1 million in investable assets. He will be responsible for assembling and collaborating with a team of financial experts to consistently deliver advice-based solutions that will help achieve the clients' goals.

He will work collectively with his private wealth management team of private bankers, commercial middle market relationship managers and business bankers to provide a concierge approach to wealth management and investment planning, allowing clients the flexibility to pursue their aspirations while achieving the financial independence they desire.

Gangadharan brings with him more than 10 years of experience in the financial industry. Before joining Fifth Third Bank, he served as a business banker, managing the West Tampa Bay region for Bank of America and a private client advisor in St. Petersburg at Merrill Lynch.

Gangadharan was born in Mumbai and resides in Clearwater.

For more information, visit


Ami Dwivedi has opened a Marathi library at her residence in Tampa. The library, "Rasikaamrut," has about 450 books, 250 Diwali Amks and nearly 100 monthlies.

"I would like to share my books with like-minded people who love reading Marathi," says Dwivedi. "I am also constantly adding to my library - I have just ordered about 300 books from Pune, which I expect to arrive around July."

The library hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 2 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (813) 600-3630 or e-mail

Story provided by Shobana Daniell

More than 300 devotees gathered at the Hindu Society of Central Florida temple recently for the Sri Durga Ma puja celebrations. It marked the 11th anniversary of Mata Ki Chowki at the Casselberry mandir. Each month, the puja is held on the last Friday. It has gained a tremendous following with devotees who sing bhajans and satsang.

The puja was conducted by Pundit Jayeshbhai Pandya, followed by the traditional style of draping Durga Ma with red shawls by the devotees.

After bhajans, funds were raised by the group to donate to the temple for specific purpose agreed upon by the Durga Ma group.

Mahaprasad was served after the pujas and devotional songs. For details, call Dev or Sudesh Sharma at (407) 862-9920 or Pradeep or Neema Vedi at (407) 805-9198.

For more information, visit for more information.


2010 Toyota Prius

About 700,000 Toyota Prius units are on the roads in the United States. This month, as the totally redesigned and even more fuel-efficient 2010 Prius hits the dealerships one can only expect that number to rise drastically. After all, the midsize third-generation hybrid claims not just better gas mileage but also more interior room, innovative tech goodies and eye-catching design.

Let's start with the engine, which has been upped from 1.5 liters to a 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder power train. Horsepower sees an increase of 22 to 98. The total horsepower from the electric motor and gas engine is 134, which is an improvement of 24 over its predecessor.

Basically, the larger engine means more torque, so the Prius consumes less fuel while cruising at high speeds, especially on the highway. And Toyota has nixed the use of belts under the hood, instead equipping the car with an electric water pump and a fresh exhaust gas recirculation. It is no wonder then that the 2010 hybrid touts combined 50 mpg (EPA estimates) instead of the previous generation's 46 mpg. Though not a powerhouse, the car can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 9.8 seconds.

The Prius operates in three modes: EV, which is electric at lower speeds of up to 25 mph; ECO, which is an efficient mode where the driver can control the throttle opening; and Power, for sportiness.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows and the driver's knee airbag are standard along with front-seat active headrests, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Traction Control, Vehicle Stability Control, and front and rear crumple zones.

A multi-information display with energy monitor, fuel consumption history, hybrid system indicator and odometer with twin trip meters will come in handy for drivers who like to eke out every gallon of gas. Also useful is the central instrument display with digital speedometer, instant fuel consumption, fuel gauge and shift-lever indicator. Other standard cabin features include a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, push-button start, 60/40-split rear seat and power door locks.

Credit goes to Toyota for adding some attractive optional features. Take the sliding-glass moon roof, which comes with solar panels. During those hot summer days (and we already are into them!), the electrically powered air circulation fan will keep the interior cool when the driver and occupants return to the car. Or, go for the remote a/c system (operates on batteries only) so you can fine-tune the cabin temperature before stepping in.

Base-priced at $21,000, the Prius comes in five different grades and three packages. This is one hybrid you seriously want to consider, especially with the ground-breaking tech and design features that Toyota has introduced. Reaching the 1 million Prius sales figures in the U.S. now looks within easy reach for the Japanese carmaker.

2010 PRIUS

Wheelbase: 106.3 inches Length: 175.6 inches Width: 68.7 inches Height: 58.7 inches Suspension: front, independent MacPherson strut; rear, torsion beam Steering: electric power-assisted rack and pinion Tires: P195/65 R15 Fuel capacity: 11.9 gallons Mileage: city 51, highway 48, combined 50 mpg Base price: $21,000 Web site:

Nitish S. Rele, former Automotive columnist and editor for The Tampa Tribune, is editor/founder of Web site.


Amol Nirgudkar

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has provisions affecting individuals as well as businesses. Part 1 of this article focused on individual incentives. In this forum, we will discuss the business incentives that were enacted to help stimulate growth and employment.

As is always the case, businesses are treated more favorably than individuals when it comes to tax incentives. Most deductions that are allowed for businesses are "untouchable" for individuals. Additionally, for most type of business entities, business deductions have a far greater impact on taxes paid than individual deductions. Therefore, it is important for business owners to fully comprehend the nature of this new legislation. Appropriate use of these tax breaks can lead to substantial tax savings in 2009 and even possible tax refunds of taxes paid in prior years.

The new legislation helps businesses in the following ways:

" Bonus Depreciation - Extends the 50 percent bonus depreciation provision to 2009 for qualifying property placed into service in 2009.

" Section 179 Depreciation - Extends the 2008 Section 179 limits to 2009 for qualifying assets placed into service in 2009. The 179 limit for 2009 is $250,000 with a phase-out threshold of $800,000.

" Net Operating Loss Carry back - Expands the carry back period for small businesses (gross receipts < $15 million) from two years to five. (Note: This provision has the potential to significantly benefit companies that had substantial profits in any of the past five years and substantial losses in 2009)

" Unemployed Veterans & Disconnected Youth Credit - Gives credit to businesses worth 40 percent of the first $6,000 in wages paid to unemployed veterans and disconnected youth. Individuals qualify as disconnected youth if they are between ages 16 and 25 and have not been regularly employed or attended school in the past six months.

" Delayed Recognition of Cancellation of Debt Income (CODI) - Benefits businesses that negotiate their debt at a discount resulting in CODI. Under the act, the income can be recognized over a period of 10 years.

" Qualified Small Business Stock - Increases exclusion for gain from sale of certain small business stock held for more than five years from 50 percent to 75 percent.

" S Corporation Holding Period - Shortens the holding period of assets subject to built-in-gains tax from 10 years to seven years.

In general, businesses can greatly benefit from consulting their CPAs on a routine basis and taking appropriate steps before and after the close of any financial transaction. The tax stimulus act has made 2009 a crucial year for business owners to carefully evaluate their tax past, present and future tax strategy, and make timely decisions before it is too late.

Amol Nirgudkar, CPA, is the managing partner of Reliance Consulting LLC, and can be reached at (813) 931-7258 or email



Have you opened a new store or restaurant in the last six months? Expanding or relocating? Has your business won an award or a mention in your local newspaper? We want to hear from you. Call Nitish S. Rele at (813) 758-1786 or e-mail us at


The 99-seat eatery has been open for nine years. What's been attracting local residents to Little India at 8344 W. Oakland Park Blvd. in Sunrise? Rochelle Koff of Miami Herald has the answer. "Just-baked breads fragrant of onion and garlic," she notes in a recent review. "Robust chutneys and soothing yogurt. Velvety sauces and deep, spicy curries."

And the food? "Most dishes can be made with goat, chicken, lamb or shrimp, and there's a fish curry and spicier vindaloo," she writes.

For more information, call the restaurant at (954) 741-7570 or visit


St. Petersburg Times food critic Laura Reiley was all praise for the lunch buffet at the newly opened Pinellas Park's Taste of Punjab. "Chef/owner Rajinder Singh's palate is spicy and flavorful but balanced, with a good eye to contrasting colors and textures," she writes. "We've had a recent influx of Indian restaurants in the area, but certainly there's room for this newcomer, with its mostly familiar northern Indian dishes, offered in generous quantities at a fair price."

Lunch buffet at the eatery at 6540 Park Blvd. is $9.57. Taste of Punjab is open 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. For information, call (727) 545-4103.


And while we are talking about Pinellas Park, a lot of new residents in Pinellas (especially Clearwater/Largo areas) have been inquiring about grocery stores in their county. Well, a huge supporter of Khaas Baat for several years is Namaste in Clearwater owned by Hussainbhai. The British, Indian and Oriental (B.I.O.) groceries store is at 2475-H McMullen Booth Road. Their telephone number is (727) 669-3737. Let Hussainbhai know we suggested him to you.

Also, for folks in the vicinity of Tarpon Springs, Hudson and Holiday, there's a grocery store right off U.S. 19 in Holiday. Spice of India is at 3315 U.S. 19. For more information, call (727) 815-0831.

Vijaya and his wife Nagu Shankar.

Vijaya Shankar, previous owner of NS Foods in Tampa, died Feb. 28 in Bangalore. We fondly remember him and his wife, Nagu, who opened the restaurant/store at 5522 Hanley Road, Suite 105, more than 13 years ago. At that time, the Shankars took pride in the fact that theirs was the only store/restaurant serving fresh vegetarian South Indian food. And we took pride in eating their delicious food every time.

"Myself and Madhavi knew Vijaya Shankar for over 15 years," said Kotha Sekharam of Gurukulam of Tampa Bay. "He taught at Gurukulam of Tampa Bay for a long time. He was an honest and caring human being. Teaching was his passion. He had the ability to interact with any age group. He was the kind of person who was ready to help anybody, even a stranger, without expecting anything in return. We will greatly miss a wonderful friend in Tampa Bay."

We at Khaas Baat, including those numerous children whom Vijaya Shankar taught mathematics among other subjects to prepare for SAT, will miss him too.

NS Foods is still open, now run by Sushma Patel, a veteran cook who has catered for Indian families for more than 15 years.

Mental Health Column

It is time for the Tampa Bay community to have a forum where voices can be expressed, respected and heard. This column will provide just such a corner. In time, I hope there will be enough interest generated when you, the reader, will begin to request certain topics of discussion.
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