Lisa Antonelli Bacon

Selected Works

Hirji Adenwalla has saved thousands of impoverished Indian children from ostracism and even death.
Lt. John Venuti and the Richmond Police Department's Violent Crimes Division fight the rising tide of homicide.
They arrive in hobnail boots and tattered uniforms, lugging vintage rifles and worn blankets, ready to fight. On both sides of the Mason-Dixon line they come, without hope of winning, without fear of losing.
Style Weekly
From The New York Times, Published: January 16, 2005
Kate Spade Goes to Washington
Designer Opens Store in DC
A beautifully illustrated chronicling of the birth and development of commerce in America

"Lip Service"

July/August 2004

The veteran surgeon saving India's children

68. Lip Service
Dr. Hirji Adenwalla has devoted his life to improving the lives of children born with cleft palates But he is now advanced in years and needs a successor to step into his shoes if, that is, one can be found. LISA BACON reports from Kerala.


On a sweltering Wednesday evening in March, rickshaws clatter through the front gates of Jubilee Mission Hospital to discharge passengers and pick up more. Villagers and visitors mill noisily about. Some have come for medical attention. Others have received it and are in the process of leaving. Over honking horns and loud chatter, the wails and cries of children blend into a cacophony that echoes in the crowded courtyard.

For nearly half a century, Dr. Hirji Adenwalla has gone to sleep each night and awakened each day to the same sounds. Since 1960, he and his wife Gurnal have lived in a small cottage on the hospital grounds in Trichur, a town of 275,000 in Kerala, southern India. As head of the hospital's Charles Pinto Centre for Cleft Lip and Palate, Adenwalla has changed the lives of thousands of children with birth deformities that, in countries such as India, all too often doom a child to a life of poverty and isolation. . .

. . .On a steamy night on the eve of the monsoon season, Adenwalla begins his evening rounds to examine the little faces he has repaired. The sun has disappeared, but people still pace around the moonlit complex. Many are parents of tiny patients who have travelled hundreds of kilometres to come here but who cannot afford a hotel room while they wait for their children to recuperate. After a full day of surgery, 73-year-old Adenwalla spryly climbs the two flights up a dark, crowded stairwell to the children's surgical ward.
Women in saris share single beds with their babies. One mother lies beneath a bed with her small child, comfortable in the knowledge that her baby will not fall. . .

Early the next morning, before the heat has enveloped the compound, Adenwalla drapes a sterile green smock over tennis shorts and a polo shirt before scrubbing up at a large sink that looks more like a horse trough with taps. In the operating room, cooled by a single air-conditioning window unit, he perches on a gingham-covered black stool at the head of the operating table. . .On the table, all that is visible is a tiny mouth and nose, surrounded by a green cloth. Four people lean over a sterile area not much larger than a plum. Forty years ago, the scene was much different. Then the hospital had a total of four nurses and one surgeon. Gurnal, his young bride of 20, was Adenwalla's only surgical assistant.
After some clipping and slicing, the child's nose and mouth have disappeared, replaced by what looks like a smashed tomato. With the eyes of a hawk and the hands of a harpist, Adenwalla reconstructs a new face, one that will be as pretty as it is functional. As he knots off the final stitches at the end of the three-hour surgery, he hums Harry Belafonte's "Jamaican Farewell." . . . .