Ramesh Manek, 68, an Architect for whom Family Came First



By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: There is a picture of Ramesh Manek in a white shirt, smiling broadly besides a yellow sign on a busy street in Abu Dhabi in the middle of the afternoon. “Men at Work” reads the sign, but it may as well have been referring to Manek, who was the hardest working expat for his company Bechtel who was building a port project. Come the weekend, Manek would still steal away for a short while to the project site, even though his wife Manju protested that “the other expat guys never go!”

The man who was all go and never tired lost a battle with pulmonary fibrosis a week ago on Tuesday, January 24, 2017 at the UCLA Westwood Hospital in Los Angeles, California where he had gone for treatment. He was 68, just shy of his birthday on February 3.

But Manek was that kind of driven guy, who thrived on work and putting a lot of stress on himself to get the job done right. He had been with Bechtel almost his entire professional career as an architect, project engineer and construction manager and he knew how to navigate the labyrinth firm for juicy, long-term projects, some of which took him out of the Bayou City and across the country.

During the days when things were slow in Houston, he had gone around the country first to Bay City, Texas and then on single status for three years to rebuild airports in Atlanta, Georgia and Panama City, Florida all the while flying in on weekends to be with his wife and kids. When the opportunity to go overseas came up, he travelled with his wife on assignment to New Mumbai for six months, Abu Dhabi for over seven years and after that to Perth, Australia on a three year project on the western seaboard.

The two finally returned to Houston last April 2017 and settled in before Manek retired in September. But he was hampered by the lung condition which left him short of breath and dependent on supplemental oxygen all day.

Ramesh Mangaldas Manek was born in Mumbai in 1948 and till the tenth grade went to the Matunga Premier High School, and finished high school at the SIES College in Sion, both Mumbai neighborhoods. He received his Bachelors in Architecture in 1971 from the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, and then left for pursue a Masters in the field at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, receiving his degree in 1973.

On a short visit to his family in 1974, he met a shy young woman, Manju Unadcath at a wedding and soon their families arranged for the two to be betrothed and they were married two weeks later. Manju’s family had been settled in Teheran, Iran for a generation and the couple moved there for four years while Ramesh worked with a local architectural company. Just as the Iranian Revolution was beginning in 1979, Manek took a job with the giant American multinational engineering and construction firm Bechtel and moved to Houston. He stayed with the firm for 38 years.

Besides his wife Manju, Manek is survived by his son Neil, a nephrologist who has recently moved to Los Angeles to practice and his daughter Sheila, a mechanical engineer who lives and works in New York City.

Though he never complained about working hard, Manek held his family and friends close to his heart and would always berate others that “family comes first.” He enjoyed visitors and opened up his heart and home to them, greeting them loudly with open arms and huge hugs. “Kyon pyaare! Kaise ho? (So, my dear! How are you?)” was his favorite catchphrase when he sat you down to chat. And then he would listen intently.

Funeral services for Ramesh Manek will be held on Thursday, February 2, 2017 at Chapel of Eternal Peace at Forest Park (2454 S. Dairy Ashford, Houston, Texas 77077, 281-531-8180). Visitation will be from 9:30 to 11am with the funeral from 1am to noon. A memorial service with bhajans will be conducted on Monday, February 6, 2017 at 6:30pm at the Arya Samaj of Greater Houston, 14375 Schiller Rd, Houston, Texas 77082, 281-752-0200 followed by dinner.rectly afterwards.