South Asians—those of us who trace our ancestry to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, or Sri Lanka—have a fourfold risk of heart disease than the general population. It strikes us at a much younger age and sneaks up on us without prior symptoms or warning. One organization working to spread awareness about the cause is the South Asian Heart Center (SAHC). It receives its primary fiscal support from the El Camino Hospital Foundation and is the first major nonprofit devoted to combating this epidemic.

SAHC’s third annual fundraiser, Scarlet Night, supports its educational outreach, participant screening, and individualized prevention planning and follow-up.

The evening—which will be kicked off by Prakash Vaswani, a dynamic emcee at South Asian gatherings—will open with a 13-table casino, including blackjack, craps, roulette, and an invitational poker tournament sponsored by Zojio Technologies (participants will need to preregister). The banquet dinner will be a delectable affair, thanks to the expertise of Chef Vittal from Amber India (Santana Row) and Chef Vincent Lai from San Jose Convention Center. Other highlights will includ comic Nitin Kant, a  live auction, and dancing to music by DJ Salim.


“Almost everyone associated with the gala has a story to share, a story about a personal experience about themselves or a loved one struggling to find resources and asking themselves where they went wrong,” says Ashish Mathur, executive director of the SAHC. “When people come to the gala, they’re not there to listen to lectures about heart health. They meet with our volunteers, our doctors and our survivors. They hear firsthand what people have been through and the event is a celebration of what we’ve achieved as a community,” he says.

“We’re still at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spreading awareness and improving education about prevention,” says Sheetal Singhal, gala co-chair, donor and long-time supporter of the cause. “Scarlet Nights 2009 and 2010 helped us raise friends for the center and we hope Scarlet Night 2011 will help us raise significant funds to help us get to that next level.”

Priya Dharan says, “You’ll be shocked to see how many people do not realize that heart health is not even in their subconscious until one day they feel those mysterious, unexplained symptoms.” Dharan’s husband suffered a cardiac event in 2008.

The family did not realize that what he was going through had something to do with his heart. A Silicon Valley executive in his 40s, Murali Dharan had a nearly 100 percent blockage in his right coronary artery. He and the family immediately took to educating themselves on hearth health and found out that despite their simple lifestyle they needed a massive recalibration of how they ate, exercised and perceived hearth health.

“The good part is that we can make this change. We can become aware of our risk factors and change our lifestyle to manage these risks. And Scarlet Night celebrates the resolution that together we will make a difference,” Dharan says.

Saturday, March 12, 6 p.m. San Jose Convention Center, 150 W. San Carlos St., San Jose. $125-$200. (650) 940-7242. Register:

Kalpana Mohan writes from California's Silicon valley. To read more about her, go to