A Brotherhood of Indian Engineers Honors its Achievers with Casual Informality


The honorees for this year’s awards. Front row from left: Hasmukh Doshi, Ben Bansal, Jasbir Singh Sethi, Ravi Arora and Ramesh Garg. Back row from left: ASIE Board member Raj Basavaraju, Dinesh Shah, Krishna Vavilala, ASIE President Vishal Merchant, Rao Ratnala, Mahesh Wadhwa and Narendra Gosain. Photos: Jawahar Malhotra

By Jawahar Malhotra
SUGAR LAND: One of the nice things about engineers is that they seldom put up pretenses. Most solve the problems of their designs, carry forward and think nothing of their solutions even as their projects have been built, chalking it up to team, and not individual, effort.  It is a brotherhood that transcends most other barriers and they seldom place one engineer’s skills above the other’s since the knowledge base is so universally available.

But when they do recognize each other, it is usually with some reluctance and without the pomp that marks other professions which promote one individual above the other. True to this creed, the American Society of Indian Engineers held their Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony this past Friday, June 14 at Sankalp restaurant’s banquet hall on Kensington Drive, packed with 140 people who had to squeeze by the tables to get to the buffet dinner.

The event was further proof of the growth of the ASIE as it has expanded its vision to reach out to more people and showcase the impact of the thousands of engineers who work and practice in the Greater Houston area. ASIE President Vishal Merchant, a young energetic civil engineer and his equally young event team pulled together the program with the help of some of the senior and founding members of the 19 year-old organization to honor eleven experienced engineers for their contributions to the local construction industry.


ASIE President Vishal Merchant addressing the guests at the Annual Awards dinner last Friday, June 14 at Sankalp restaurant’s banquet hall in Sugar Land.

According to Merchant, since its inception in 1994, the ASIE has held 200 seminars, given out many scholarships – $10,000 worth alone in 2013 – and helped with disaster relief efforts, like during Hurricane Katrina and the recent fire fighter’s deaths. “We hope to energize and inspire the next generation,” said Merchant, with a toss of a full head of long hair. Raj Basavaraju helped in the presentation of the other honorees. The awards were handed out by this year’s key sponsors of the ASIE, whose company logos were displayed on a large poster and on the short brochure.

The first award went to Jasbir Singh Sethi a civil engineer who has the kindly demeanor and soft footsteps of someone’s favorite uncle and had the wisdom to share his personal philosophy about engineering as it related to spirituality. Sethi set the tone for the evening, with many other honorees latching onto his idea of God as the creator and engineers as His workers getting things done. “Engineers have a common language – the drawing,” explained Sethi, “They have humility, their thinking is global and they are in pursuit of excellence.”

He was followed up by his other honorees. Mahesh Wadhwa, who is the sole architect to be recognized, and is perennially smiling, noted that he wanted to expand the ASIE to include other construction professionals too. Wadhwa has built many hotels and motels in the US and overseas. Virendra “Ben” Bansal, a civil engineer who, over the years, was the face of the ASIE at many community events, was honored for his tireless work at the City of Houston and dedicated enthusiasm for the role of engineers in society. Krishna Vavilala, a retired electrical engineer, who despite his full-time job, dedicated his life to public service and is better known for installing the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Hermann Park, the Indian Studies Program at the University of Houston and the Oral History Project. “We left India,” he said, “but India has not left our hearts.”

Ravi Arora, also a stalwart of the ASIE and another civil engineer attributed his love for community service, which he is well known for all across town, to his young days at the Arya Samaj in Chandigarh. Ramesh Garg, a mechanical engineer who has worked on projects all over the world was gratified to “be recognized by people like me” and accepted it with humility and pride.


ASIE Board member Raj Basavaraju coordinated the event with other Board members and also emceed part of the presentation portion of the event.

Rao Ratnala, another civil engineer in private practice, spoke of the first such gala during the period of former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier’s, “which highlighted the success of Indian engineers.” Narendra Gosain, a structural engineer and VP at Walter p. Moore Associates attributed the trait of Americans to take risks, one that eventually has rubbed off to Indian engineers settled in the US, to the success of engineering projects. “When the risks are higher,” he went on, “the number of people taking it are smaller.” His hero was the late Space Shuttle astronaut, Kalpana Chawla, who was also an engineer from Punjab College of Engineering in Chandigarh.

Dinesh Shah, a civil and structural engineer has built a successful career for himself as a real estate developer and is also known for his community activism. He his been working hard to promote the ASIE and pledged to “take it to the higher level.” Hasmukh Doshi, a civil engineer who founded Doshi Engineering and Surveying, opened by invoking a Hindu mantra, then gave a brief history of the ASIE of which he was the first president. He asked for more engineers to join the still 127 member organization, and ended by giving away free 50 copies of the book “Understanding Joy and Sorrow”. The final recipient, Chad Patel, a civil engineer who is also the Vice President of the Houston Chapter of GOPIO, was not able to attend.

The event was generously catered by Sankalp restaurant, which also is the venue for the next free ASIE event on July 18, sponsored by ADS Pipes.