City of Joy
is a novel written by Dominique Lapierre
(1985) and a 1992 film directed by Roland Joffé
The story concerns a
French priest living in Calcutta
, Paul Lambert, who is trying to help and understand life in a slum called Anand Nagar (City of Joy). Among its various protagonists is the rickshaw
puller, Hasari Pal who becomes a central figure in the novel. Despite the abject poverty and injustice, the inhabitants of Anand Nagar display an inscrutable acceptance and celebration of life — an attitude that humbles fate and dignifies life.
The Paul Lambert character is inspired by a Swiss missionary, Gaston Grandjean, who became Gaston Dayananda when he took the Indian nationality in 1992, and who has devoted his life to the poorest. He also helped to found the Southern Health Improvement Samity (SHIS) in 1980.
Half of the royalty from the sale of the book goes towards the City of Joy Foundation that looks after slum children in Calcutta.