• Users Online: 144
  • Print this page
  • Email this page

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 6-8

Tribute to a smilemaker and an amazing storyteller

Senior Consultant Plastic Surgeon, National Heart Institute; Former Director Professor and HOD, Department of Burns, Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgery, VMMC and Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission01-Dec-2020
Date of Acceptance01-Dec-2020
Date of Web Publication13-Jan-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Karoon Agrawal
E-44, Second Floor, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jclpca.jclpca_44_20

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Agrawal K. Tribute to a smilemaker and an amazing storyteller. J Cleft Lip Palate Craniofac Anomal 2021;8:6-8

How to cite this URL:
Agrawal K. Tribute to a smilemaker and an amazing storyteller. J Cleft Lip Palate Craniofac Anomal [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Apr 11];8:6-8. Available from: https://www.jclpca.org/text.asp?2021/8/1/6/306779

I met Mr. Satish Kalra on the sidelines of Cleft and Craniofacial Workshop in 2001, organized by Dr. SR Tambwekar at Bombay Hospital, Mumbai. I still vividly remember, when I met him for the first time, he was in conversation with Dr. Sommerlad, Dr. Adenwalla, and Dr. Tambwekar. I was introduced by Dr. Tambwekar to all the stalwarts in the field of cleft. Mr. Kalra had come to introduce Smile Train (ST) to the conference attendees. He was very well informed about the cleft scenario in the country. Thereafter, we kept meeting at regular intervals during various academic meetings and conferences.

In 2005, he called me and asked if I would be interested in partnering with ST. I was very keen to be a part of ST, but my institute and the central government did not permit it. He even visited the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in New Delhi to put across his point of view, but even that did not break the ice. Meanwhile, we remained in touch through regular telephonic calls to each other on some pretext or the other, mostly related to reviewing the surgical outcomes, training, and designing scientific programs for the ST partners' meetings. He started extending financial grant for my annual workshops on cleft at JIPMER, Puducherry.

We became very close during the organization of the Annual Conference of Indian Society of Cleft Lip Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies, Indocleftcon 2009, at Puducherry. He extended a whopping financial support and was instrumental in inviting Dr. Court Cutting, Dr. IT Jackson, and Dr. Adenwalla to the meeting. The whole team of ST India was also in attendance. He funded their travel as well as local expenses. It was a very successful meeting with so many international faculty and a large participation by members of the association. The credit goes to Mr. Satish Kalra.

Thereafter, with the help of Mr. Satish Kalra, I visited Fortaleza, Brazil, to attend “Cleft 2009,” where I had a meeting with Mr. Court Cutting who was the chair of Medical Advisory Board (MAB). He informed me that something is on the way for me. After a few months, I received a call from Mr. Kalra inviting me for a dinner with family at one of the posh beach-side hotels in Puducherry. He had organized a stylish dinner and made me cut a cake and then he delivered a letter from ST office requesting me to join the MAB in India (now Indian Medical Advisory Council) signed by Dr. Court Cutting. I was thrilled and overwhelmed to receive such an invitation and thankful to all concerned.

Mr. Kalra's contribution to cleft care in India is unparalleled. His vision and efforts changed the “mission impossible” to a “mission possible.” We used to see hundreds of children and adults with cleft lip and palate waiting for surgery for years in various hospitals prior to ST Initiative in India. Whenever there was a camp organized by any nongovernmental organization, we used to see hundreds of patients of clefts queuing up for surgery. Mr. Satish Kalra as a crusader at the dawn of the 21st century, brought smiles on the faces of hundreds and thousands of cleft lip and palate children through ST. By the time he retired, more than 500,000 children in India had the surgery performed free of cost under the umbrella of ST India.

Mr. Kalra was multifaceted, very intelligent, practical, and a person with perfect managerial instincts. He was ready to learn about the management of cleft lip and palate from anyone, anytime, and anywhere. Dr. Adenwalla always used to refer to his first meeting with Mr. Satish Kalra. Mr. Kalra had met him with a diary and a pencil in hand in Dr. Adenwalla's office to note down the answers to many questions he had. He was inquisitive to know as much as possible. After sometime when Mr. Kalra came to him again, Dr. Adenwalla was surprised to find that he was speaking like a specialist in cleft surgery.

Mr. Satish Kalra had an amazing memory. He remembered the names of not just all the partners but also all their family members. He would always inquire about the children and the spouse of the partner surgeons. Every partner surgeon and anesthetist felt very close to him because of the personal attention that he used to give to every individual. He was well informed about the details of every partner hospital. This gave him an edge over other managers. He knew the shortcomings of every hospital and every partner surgeon and anesthetist. There he could augment the services by extending all the needed support at the right time and at the right place. Under his able leadership, ST India grew from one partner in 2000 to 210 plus partners in 2015.

As the members of the advisory board (council), we used to discuss various policy matters. But, he had his own way of convincing every one to accept what he thought was the best. At the end of the meeting, everyone used to be happy that they have contributed to the decision-making, however, most of the time, the decision was what was made by Mr. Kalra himself.

He was humbleness personified. He was the chief programme officer of ST and the regional director and was the most important person in ST India. Still, he would always extend due respect to all the partner surgeons.

He was a great supporter of the Journal of Cleft Lip Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies. The inaugural issue of the journal was released at Lucknow, and Mr. Kalra was one of the guests of honor for this momentous event for the journal [Figure 1]. After starting the journal in 2013, he supported it financially as well as in the form of subscription to the journal. He subscribed the journal for all the partners in India for 2 years. He also contributed an article on “mission impossible made possible.”[1]
Figure 1: Mr. Satish Kalra as a guest of honor during the release of the first issue of the Journal of Cleft Lip Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies at the inaugural function of Indocleftcon 2014 at King George's Medical University, Lucknow

Click here to view

Apart from patient care, he was very keen on supporting scientific events. He used to financially support Indian cleft society annual meetings, workshops, updates, etc., regularly. While supporting, he used to bat for participation of the ST partners. He also started ST Anesthetists and Surgeons (STARS) conference exclusively for the ST partner surgeons and anesthetists. He always used to aim for the best for these programs. He invited the best of international faculty for STARS events, chose the best venues, and designed the scientific program most appropriate for the delegates. He was so confident of his knowledge of the science of cleft that he used to design the basic sketch of the program and then we used to fine tune it based on the availability of the faculty and speakers among the delegates.

We have been talking about the contribution of Mr. Satish to ST India. After successfully launching the ST India program, he was taken as the Chief Programme Officer of the Global ST in New York. His brilliance, wisdom, involvement, and devotion to work reflected in the expansion of the program in more than 85 countries across the globe. He expanded the presence of ST in regions and countries where no one would have thought of. And, during his leadership, there was a sharp rise in the number of surgeries performed with the support of ST. He replicated the strategies learned from ST India to the global platform. This was the key to his success.

Who could have thought of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and Mrs. Aishwarya Rai as the brand ambassadors of ST? Being the world's largest charity, these two stalwarts and celebrities in their own fields accepted the request only because of the initiative and persuasion of Mr. Satish Kalra. The participation of these two leaders gave a huge mileage and prominence to the ST in India.

In one of the last MAB meetings he conducted at Chandigarh, he said that he loved ST so much that he thinks of only ST and works 24 × 7 only and only for ST. He confessed that he had not been able to do justice to other areas of his interest. He expressed that he would like to spend some time for writing and other hobbies after his retirement from ST. I am not sure what all he could do, but whenever I spoke to him or met him in person, he exuded confidence with a smile on his face. His smile was infectious and I learned to smile from him in every situation.

I was surprised when I came to know about his illness a couple of years back. Even then, he exuded confidence and was sure of his recovery. But, when I met him few days before his departure from this world, he had lost all hopes. Still, his wit was preserved. He was talking about every one in ST. He was recalling many anecdotes. He referred to our Masai Mara and Bali trips. He referred to the organization of STARS etc., etc. I always consider him one of the best “storytellers” I have come across. He had stories to tell from across the globe, on a variety of subjects. No one can be a better storyteller than Mr. Satish Kalra.

An era has gone along with Mr. Satish Kalra. I call it the “Kalra era of cleft care in India.” He epitomized the “care for children with cleft lip and palate” across the world. This void cannot be filled by anyone. Unfortunately, this year has been bad for the cleft caregivers when we lost The cleft surgeons, anesthetists, speech pathologists, orthodontists, donors, patients, families of children with cleft, and finally the children themselves all admire, love, and respect this man who has worked day in and day out for their comfort and care, and we all pray that this smile-making soul rests in peace and wish that he continues his journey in God's own world for the well-being of an unknown community.

  References Top

Kalra S. Cleft lips and palates: A social perspective. J Cleft Lip Palate Craniof Anomal 2014;1:100-3.  Back to cited text no. 1


  [Figure 1]


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article
Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded15    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal