“Within our dreams and aspirations we find our opportunities”.
Very few people truly love their jobs let it alone be a passion. But the just sworn in new President of the prestigious Society of Indo-American Engineers and Architects (SIAEA), Mihir Patel not only loves his job but works everyday with a burning passion. He is the President of Monpat Constructions Ltd., and a prominent member of the Indian American community. He spoke to The Indian Panorama correspondent Pooja Premchandran in an exclusive interview at his office in Flushing, New York. Mihir B. Patel is perhaps one of the wellestablished engineers in the Indian American community. A firm believer in the philosophy of ‘one life-live well’, Mihir Patel bats away the problems of his life and work. After a bit of struggling start, Patel has come a long way. “I am one of the founding members of Monpat Construction. The start to that hasn’t been easy but I sure am happy now. I came here and started working at a construction group. Currently we work on many New York City projects. Now I am the 15th President at SIAEA and that’s additional responsibility.
But I am more than happy to take up this responsibility,” says a smiling Patel. Born in Mehsana, Gujarat, Mihir was always inclined towards doing Engineering. He set out to complete his Bachelors in Engineering from Birla Vishwakarma Mahvidyala in 1982. In 1986, he married Bhavana Patel and he now has a son, Priyank Patel, who is also an architect. Mohan Jetwani founded the Society of Indo-American Engineers and Architects or SIAEA in 1981. The Association immediately gained popularity among the Indian American engineers and architects who were continually looking for a larger umbrella to share their common goals. Patel is ready to further the valor of the organization. “They sowed the seed for this Association.
Although it has blossomed already, my task is to make sure it remains that way. I need to carry its name and glory much further,” says Patel. Mihir also plans to get the Indian-American youth on board with SIAEA. He adds, “We plan to get many youngsters also inducted to our organization. We plan to provide them with scholarships to Engineering schools and once they graduate we will orient them to our organization.” Unlike many who see the seat of power as just another feather in their caps, Mihir resolves to change a few things within the SIAEA. He vows to accomplish a few of his own personal ambitions by using all the Presidential power that he is allotted to use. “My personal goal under this Presidency would be to open new chapters, facilitate grassroot level meetings, get more young engineers and architects involved. That would be priority. This was also the dream of Nayan Parikh, so now my task is to fulfill them,” Mihir stresses.
In the midst of a housing crisis where the prices are sky-rocketing, Mihir has not lost all hope to provide housing for all. His personal ambition is to provide housing options to all sectors of the society. “My biggest ambition is to provide housing options for the society and not just specifically the Indian community. I think housing or shelter is a basic need for us all. I, along with the SIAEA have been trying to work on this need for the past six years. But we require continual monetary support for this. I am hoping that in these two years as the SIAEA President I will be able to bring us closer to fulfilling that dream,” says Mihir. He explains that he is relentlessly pursuing this aspiration and he hopes that it gets fulfilled. While most of us cannot handle just one job, Mihir eases through his role as President to two organizations. He attributes the successful organizing of his office and work projects to his brother. He explains, “Well my company is well organized and its very well established. I have my brother also helping me out and my staff does a wonderful job to settle things in a good way. So it gives me the motivation to come to a hassle free environment. As far as SIAEA is concerned, just being part of this group is an honor.
I get all the respect and admiration I could ask for from SIAEA and in turn I strive to live up to the organizations dreams and valor.” Mihir also learnt long ago that all work and no play is not the way to go. He still remains a lively and active man despite the mounting economic crisis and additional work pressure. He explains that that he takes ‘the edge off’ by playing various sports. “I am most passionate about sports. I play cricket, tennis, golf and other active sports.
I have made a small cricket pitch in my backyard. I had the fortune of having Mr. Kapil Dev come there and play once. It’s simple. With all the work you do, you need to find something that relaxes you. I need that relaxation after its 5 in the evening.” Mihir draws all his inspiration from his father. He recalls his father’s debacle when he was told that he couldn’t be an engineer. Since, then his father resolved to make Mihir an engineer.
Mihir says, “My father easily is my mentor. When he was young, he aspired to be an engineer and run his own company in America. But sadly, my grandfather did not have the means to support him. So he always willed me to be an engineer and I did just that. Even today, I stress on the value of education. I always believe that education is the only way you can succeed in today’s world.” It usually takes a life changing experience for us to transform our manner of thinking and living.
On being asked about Mihir’s life changing experience, he jokingly tells us, “I think ever since the 2009 recession I have been having life changing experiences. But seriously, initially we used to get regular work orders from agencies, but now we need to dig a little deeper to find work. Sadly though, the situation does not seem to be improving.” The 2009 recession has stunted many companies growth and many have given up. But Mihir Patel carries on due to his loving support from his family and friends. “See, problems will always come.
It is never going to stop. I find that a good support from friends who are loyal and committed to you, it is easier to solve your problems,” he advises. In the last 20 years, Monpat Constructions have completed work worth $100 million. All his projects are close to his heart but two are very distinctive. “Currently, I am working on a project at the Otisville Correction facility. Although there are many other projects we are currently undertaking, the Otisville prison project or any other project that you do at the prison, deserves a special mention. Working at a prison is completely different.
You get a bare minimum of 5 hours to work every day and you need to somehow complete your project by deadline. Also, there are strict rules on how many tools you can carry inside and how you can carry them. Even our Super’s presence and absence must be notified to authorities. So, construction around the prison is definitely a more challenging job for me,” Mihir adds.
He also tell us about a second project called “Challenge America’ where the debris from the 9/11 tragedy was used to make the Houston park near FDR. Mihir explains, “This project was a joint effort of Erin Brokovich and Mayor Giuliani. We provided the roofing to this project. I decided to contribute to this project mainly because we all were overcome with the sense of needing to do something after the harsh 9/11 tragedy.” Like many other prominent members of our Indian American community, Mihir Patel also urges our community to grow stronger and stand united from within. “I find that the Gujarati community is very active and very well behaved. This is a group comprising of very well educated and very well established people. This is also true about the other Indian communities we have in the US. However, there is a problem with unity in our Indian society.
Not only are we disunited but we also have the nature of being displeased when others succeed. I wish we could change that aspect.” But like any other Indian, family is the most important thing to him. “I only pray that in good or bad times, I have the support and presence of family and close friends. For me, family is of utmost importance. Everything else is secondary,” he concluded.