ASIE Wields Strength with Scholarship Awards at Year-end Diwali Party


By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: It was an impressive array indeed as some of the heavy-weights among Indians in the engineering profession came to bestow monetary awards to those young engineers poised to make their own mark in promising careers yet to unfold.

It was doubly pleasing to the elders of the American Society of Indian Engineers who had started the organization in 1994, to see it gain the momentum to culminate a year of attention-grabbing activities with a Diwali party at India House, an event that they had never before considered.

Recognition of President, Vishal Merchant for Excellent Service.

Recognition of President, Vishal Merchant for Excellent Service.

Dinesh Shah, an engineer, real-estate developer and community activist laid the success of the ASIE’s year-long activities – they held at least four major events and a few smaller ones – squarely on the shoulders of outgoing President Vishal Merchant, whose term expires at the end of the year.

“I looked through my emails from the past few months and discovered that there were almost nineteen “firsts” that happened due to Vishal’s energetic efforts”, declared Shah as he rattled off the list one by one. “His dedicated devotion has brought the ASIE success”, he said, holding up a piece of paper that spelled “Success” and added, “the U in it is you Vishal”! as the audience responded with huge applause.


The Diwali program was held last Friday, November 1 and started in the main hall after appetizers in the reception area. Saumya Rege, an architect and a local artist with a strong singing voice sang the invocation to Ganesh to bless the event.

Haley Matusek, a 12 year-old from Deer Park Junior High was asked to step in as a last minute replacement to sing the American National Anthem.  Despite losing her right-hand as a young child, she has been dancing and singing competitively since she was six, and she sang her heart out to great appreciation. She was followed by the Indian Anthem sung by Rege and another local performer, Mahendra Korivi, a realtor and retired engineer.

7 students recieved $10,000 in scholarships.

7 students recieved $10,000 in scholarships.

Merchant wished the over 160 guests a happy Diwali, which is also known as a festival of Joy and Hope.”Tonight’s program is full of Joy and it also brings Hope”, said Merchant, “as we empower the future generation by awarding seven local engineering students of Indian Origin with scholarships”. He also thanked the program sponsors – Geotest Engineering, Doshi Engineering and Surveying, ADS Pipe, HDR and ARKK Engineers – for their unwavering support. Their Principals helped in making the awards presentations.

Setting the event in motion were four young girls – Nina Kilambi, Ishika Cividi, Arya Shankar and Leharika Chiriki – all students of Rupa Aranke, director of the Nurpur School of Dance in Sugar Land setting off a festive note with a dance set to the song Radha Teri Chunri from the Bollywood movie Student of the Year. 

The highlight of the evening was the scholarships that were awarded to the seven college students (see list), some in graduate school, who had won from a field of 35 who had applied for the one-time monetary scholarships. Each came to the stage to receive their awards from one of the sponsors, as Shouri Nandagiri, with the North Harris County Flood Control District played the awards emcee.

Merchant returned to stage to offer his thanks and reflect on his year-long presidency (new elections are slated for November 22). “I have always doubted my ability to deliver and couldn’t have been able function without the support of my team and buddy Raj Basavaraju”, began Merchant. Merchant had joined ASIE in 2006, but had drifted away when he began his PhD at Lamar University, later rejoining as he returned to Houston to work. “It has been a great life experience and I have learnt a lot from my seniors, especially Dinesh Shah whom I was in touch with constantly”. He thanked his wife My for her patience and support as he slogged over organizing events at home after a full day’s work,

A buffet dinner catered by Sankalp restaurant was served as Rege and Korivi entertained the guests with several songs from Hindi movies of yesteryear. This was followed up with a standup comedy routine by Dr. Saidas ”Sai” Ranade who has twice won an award for being one of Houston’s Funniest People. A chemical engineer by profession, Sai kidded that Merchant had called him the Optimum Choice “because it was the lowest cost option”. He kept the audience in stitches with his funny observations over Indian idiosyncrasies, mannerisms and use of English that causes many moments of confusion and amusement. Rege and Korivi closed out the evening with more songs that brought many a fond memory of India to the mind.

ASIE 2013 Scholarship Award Recipients

Priya Patel, Chemical Engineering, Univ. of Houston, $2,500

Abhipray Sahoo, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rice Univ., $1,500

Ayush Rastogi, Petroleum Engineering, Univ. of Houston, $1,500

Rahul Goel, Space Life Sciences, Univ. of Houston, $1,500

Vikram Murali, Chemical Engineering, Rice Univ., $1,000

Radhakrishna Kotti, Electrical Engineering, Univ. of Houston, $1,000

Krishna Rishi Saladi, Environmental Engineering, Univ. of Houston, $1,000