Prof. I.S. Sluaja
By now a must attend gala for all engineers and architects of Indian origin, the SIAEA annual gala dinner is scheduled for November 15 at Grand Hyatt Hotel, Grand Central, New York. And it is an event which draws the attention and energy of each SIAEA member, in particular the ones on the Executive, specially, the President. SIAEA President Mihir Patel has been a man with nerves on tenterhooks for months together, since the annual gala is the most prestigious event of the SIAEA. I have seen this happen to his predecessor and mentor Nayan Parikh and others before him.
Despite being so awfully busy, Mihir was gracious enough to speak with me on the course that SIAEA was on, his plans for the growth of this organization which has over a thousand best of Indian American engineers and architects as its members, and on the coming annual gala. Mihir’s major concern is to have an image of Indian American engineers and architects in the mainstream. For that he said the SIAEA has to ensure that it involves itself with the mainstream. That is why, he said, “We have a number of guests from outside the Indian Diaspora.
We try to get our lawmakers and eminent Americans to the gala to have the kind of relationship and rapport that will stand in good stead.” The honored guest list this year includes Ambassador Dnyaneshwar M Mulay, Consul General of India, Alphonso P David, NYS Deputy Secretary for Human Rights, Dominick M. Servedio , Executive Chairman- STV Group, Inc., Sen. Ruth Hassell Thomson, Thomas F. Prendergast, MTA, Lash Green, PANYNJ, Michael Clay, DASNY, Earl Walker, Regional Alliance,Walter Mosley, Assembly Member, Stacey Cumberbatch, NYCDCAS, Craig Collins, NYCSCA, Michael Garner, MTA, Michael Jones-Bey, CON EDISON, and Cheryl McKissack & McKissack On the advantage of being an SIAEA member, Mihir said the membership of the Society provided exposure to the mainstream American society and the construction business that was worth more than $2 billion.
All the President’s men. Mihir’s team
The gala offered an opportunity for networking which was so essential for the growth of any business. Asked about the awards being presented this year, Mihir said quite a few were being honored. They included Abhay Wadhwa, Ahmed Shakir, Amil Patel, Mita Amin, Nayan Parikh , Nitin Patel, Sharon Lobo, Sneha Patel, and Sunil Bold. George Toma and Suzanne Veira are special honorees while Alok Saksena and Manan Garg are honorees under 40. Mihir also disclosed that SIAEA was continuing with the scholarship program and had increased the amount of scholarship from $1000.00 to $ 2000.00. He said he wanted the younger generation engineers and architects to get involved in the local network. He also said he would like the number of members increase to 10,000 by 2020.
Consul General of India in New York Dnyaneshwar M. Mulay will give a special address at the gala
Mihir was obviously proud that during his presidency SIAEA had become a national organization, with the creation of Philadelphia Chapter on June 22nd, 2014. Mihir said the chapter started with 22 members and in 5 months it has a membership of 72. He also spoke of plans to open a chapter in Washington DC in November, 2014 and a chapter in Chicago in March, 2015. Mihir is doing hard work, no doubt. But how experienced he is ? Asked when he got associated with the SIAEA, he said he joined the Society in 1996. He served on Board of Directors from 2004 to 2013, after which he took over as President.
Mihir says that “the only way our voice can be heard in our adopted country is to get actively involved in politics. It is then that we can fight for issues that impact us. It is good to see that awareness is growing among Indians in this country. It is important for us to become an integral part of the American mainstream society. At the same time we must not forget our rich Indian heritage”. He opines that integration should be encouraged, not assimilation.
He adds “as ambassadors of the rich heritage of India, we should share our culture and heritage with our neighbors. We need to become part of the social fabric”. He maintains “at the work place, hard work, honesty and quality are the golden keys to success. One should not go for short cuts because then the success would also be short-lived”. Mihir’s construction company Monpat was established in 1993 and had a turnover of 1.5 million approximately. It has completed business worth 150 millions in 22 years. The company is registered with City, State and Federal agencies.
Mihir is married to Bhavana and the couple have a son-Priyank. He has done Architecture from Penn State and is now working for the home company. Miten Patel, Mihir’s younger brother, is a great support to Mihir. Miten is married to Rekha and the two have a son- Roshun and a daughter-Trisha. Closing the conversation Mihir renewed me the invitation to the Gala on the 15th and said proudly, “This gala is my Presidency’s last gala. I have tried to make the most memorable one. For one, it is going to be the biggest gala ever. Last year the number of attendees was 700. And I expect between 900 and 1000 guests at this gala. Please do come”. And I readily accepted his invitation because I know SIAEA gala is a real treat.