The young man was lost in India when he was 5 years old. He was soon adopted by an Australian family, but he always felt like his heart never left India.
The boy never stopped looking for his real family, and for 25 years, he kept trying to find his roots with no success. But when he discovered this Google Maps clue, everything changed. Finally, he had some real hope.
Saroo Brierley is an Indian-born Australian businessman and author who was accidentally separated from his biological family at age five. He was later adopted by an Australian couple and, with their help, built a beautiful life in Australia.
But his soul had always earned to find his home in India and his long-lost family members, especially his mother. But he soon found out that it was an almost impossible feat.
The last thing Saroo remembered from that fateful day was the silhouette of his brother and him asking if he could follow him. His older brother kept sending him back home but eventually caved in.
They both went to the local train station, jumbled into a train, and reached their destination around 9 P.M. He was only five years old, so it was past the boy’s bedtime. He was half asleep and couldn’t keep up with what his older brother was saying.
As he stepped off the train, Saroo saw a chair in front of him, so he pulled his brother closer to it and decided to rest there for a while. “Stay here for a minute. I’ll come back and get you”, the older brother said.
Saroo fell asleep on the chair. When he woke up, his brother was nowhere to be seen. The boy stood up, looked left and right, and tried to figure out what to do next. He would end up regretting his next move all his life.
As he stood up, there was a train in front of him at the station. Whether it was the same train he came on or a different one, he didn’t know. But he boarded the carriage, believing it was actually the same one.
Then he fell into a deep sleep, thinking that when he woke up, he might be home or see his older brother again. The 5-year-old boy couldn’t be more wrong.
When he woke up, Saroo didn’t know where he was. While looking out the window, he realized that nothing he saw was familiar. That’s when he began to panic.
The boy ran up and down the train, his heart going triple time. He was so scared. It was just a train going somewhere the boy didn’t know. This memory would haunt him all his life.
This would become a very painful memory for Saroo. Not only because it marked the moment he became lost but also because it was the last time he saw his older brother. He loved his whole family but was very close to his brother Guddu.
He was his idol and the closest he had to a father. Lost and separated from his brother, Saroo’s tough journey was just beginning.
Five-year-old Saroo couldn’t know that the train would take him nearly 2000 km across India. He got to one of the most populated and unforgiving cities on Earth, Calcutta. He was so scared. Everyone was shoving and pulling.
Saroo ended up in this tiny Indian orphanage. The Indian government declared him a lost child of India. He was eventually adopted to Australia by an Australian family. But his journey didn’t end there.
In his new family, Saroo lived a great life. The couple even hung a map of India for the boy so he would never forget where he came from. The family had no idea where he came from, but they wanted to show respect to his country. So the map was an integral part of the boy’s bedroom that he came home to.
Saroo would wake up every morning seeing that map, and hence it sort of kept the memories alive. He really hoped that his sister was still alive. He hoped that his mum was okay. He wondered if his brother Guddu was still there. Saroo wasn’t a child that was given away. He was a child that was accidentally lost.
Saroo always hoped there would be a day when he would be together again with his family in India. One of his friends said, “Oh, you should have a look at this. It’s Google Maps. It’s amazing. And it has Google Earth too.”
Then he realized he got such a bank of images and memories that perhaps he could use this new technology and at least try it. Maybe he’ll at least find a new clue. He found much more than that.
Saroo was looking for a one-room hut in a country spanning three million square kilometers. India is the seventh largest country in the world, and he didn’t even know the name of the town he was from.
It was madness. Saroo had no idea where it was. You’ve got over a billion people in this mass country with thousands and thousands of train stations and thousands of towns as well. It was almost impossible to find anything.
It was a painstaking process of elimination that took Saroo down hundreds, even thousands of dead ends. And he didn’t just spend weeks or months looking. Saroo kept up the hunt for six years.
There had been many times when he had just walked away in dismay and contemplated giving up. He was about to move on. But then his adoptive mother said something to him that revived his hope to find his family.
Saroo’s mum came in and said, “Wait a second, I’ll be back in a second.” And she came back and said, “Here’s a little drawing that you drew back when you were five years of age. It is a map of your hometown.” It got a water tower on the left-hand side, a flyover bridge, a ravine further on, and a train station on the right-hand side.
And that’s what he was looking for. Those were the images stuck in his head for 25 years. He then closed his eyes and said, “Please, God, let me just one last time see my family again.” He zoomed down on this train track, and scrolled, and scrolled, and he thought it looked familiar. And so, he zoomed in and saw the water tower, and he couldn’t believe it. Was his mind playing a game?
Eventually, Saroo found where he had once lived. But there was no house, just a pile of rubble. He put his hand on his face and thought perhaps the worst had happened, and they were not there anymore. But then a stranger recognized Saroo’s childhood photo. And then that person said, “Come with me. I’ll take you now to your mother.”
There, at the end of a lane, after 25 years, Saroo’s mother stood, waiting for him. He had finally found her. It was such a shock. She came forward, and they hugged, and she was in as much, if not more shock, as Saroo was. They were both looking at each other in tears, and he couldn’t believe this was happening.
But Saroo didn’t come alone on his journey to India. He brought his adoptive mother as well. “This is my mother, Kamala. Kamala, this is my mother, Sue,” Saroo said. They all held each other, and Sue wanted to ask her a couple of things, so she said to Kamala, “Did you always feel that Saroo was still alive?” And she said, “Yes. I always knew in my heart that not only was he alive, but he would come back to me one day.”
Then Sue, standing there in the dirt in the street, began crying, and Kamala tried to comfort her and wipe away her tears. And then Kamala said to Sue through the interpreter, “Don’t cry. He’s your son. I give you my son.” In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.