Lapierre's new book to put Sunderbans on world map

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Kolkata,Dec 6 (UNI) Acclaimed French author Dominique Lapierre plans to put Sunderbans, the world's largest mangrove forest interwoven with 54 islands and around 50 lakh people, on the global map with a sequel to ''The City of Joy' where he will talk about the struggles and dreams of the people forgotten in the age of sky-scrapers.

Sundarbans, a world heritage site,is known for its dense mangrove forests and for being one of the last habitats of the elusive royal Bengal tiger. But the enchanting mystique of these remote jungles cloaks a sad reality. Lapierre discovered the malady of these people, plagued by tuberculosis and a severe lack of basic medical facilities, determined to provide succour to them.

Yesterday, when MV Dominique, with the words ''City of Joy Mobile Boat Dispensary'' resplendent in red on its keel along with three other floating hospitals and water doctors, meandered through the waters crisscrossing the Sunderbans, dodging the bobbing buoys fastened on to unending fishing nets submerged in the rippling, salty waters, it was carrying in its belly 100 cataract stricken men and women, who were brought to Bangur hospital here for operations and rehabilitation at the cost of Lapierre Foundation.

Lapierre, who was here to visit Sunderbans and launch his new book 'Once upon a time in the Soviet Union', said, ''It is hurting to see the conditions of the poor people there. I am deeply touched by their pain and their unselfish love. I plan to put Sunderbans on the world map with a sequel to The City of Joy.'' ''I have completed one third of the book and should be ready in the next two years. It will contain the lives and aspirations of the people who live there. It will of course be a fictionalized presentation of their world to attract a larger readership, to reach out Sunderbans to more people,'' he said.

Asked what would he name the book, he said, ''I think of the title after the entire work is complete. So I will be able to tell you more about the title two years down the line.'' Talking about the hardships of the people there, he said, ''It was more difficult to travel through Sunderbans today than covering 13,000 kms through Soviet Union half a century back.'' "I have 14 projects in India. Thirteen of them are in West Bengal and one in Bhopal, for the victims of the gas tragedy. I have spent USD 25 million from my earnings here and still feel I have not done enough...I want to do more," he said.

Lapierre is working on a three prong basis in Sunderbans -- economy, infrastructure and medical -- for the people and saving the ecological balance of the region, a heritage spot of the world.

For someone who is moved by destruction of natural habitat, he was agitated, 'I read somewhere that the beach of Kerala is being disfigured by houses being constructed by people who have no concerns for the beauty of nature. It is one of the most beautiful places in India and you should save it. You should save the Terai, you should save Sunderbans.'' Almost 20 years ago, Lapierre was approached by an NGO, the Southern Health Improvement Samity (SISH), which was looking for help for underprivileged rural areas in this forgotten region of the country. The proposal struck a chord and Lapierre committed himself to Sunderbans.

He comes to India at least thrice and gives 80 per cent of his royalties from 'The City of Joy' to the people of Sunderbans.

Incidentally The City of Joy is been recreated into a 250 episode serial for Bengali aucience. ''The project is being taken up by Ashis Roy and Siddhartha Parashar. They have worked extensively and produced a script closest to the book,'' he said, the rickshaw- puller's bell tingling in his hand.

While Frech actor Damien Trident will play the role of the hero, the international cast will also have Stephan Kovalski, Debashis Roychowdhury, as Hasari Pal and Srilekha Majumdar as his wife.' ''No we can't shoot in Pilkhana in Howrah. It looks like Manhattan. We have to scout out another place that will portray the poverty, injustice, inscrutable acceptance of fate and celebrations of the people of Ananda Nagar,'' he added.

He also informed that Freedom at Midnight was taken up by US based production House 'Working Title' for a 10 part serial for HBO, while 'O Jerusalem' directed by Elie Chauraqui had just been released in United States.


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