The year was 1987. Saroo Brierley was just 5 years old. He had boarded a train with his brother after a day of begging in a small town in central India. Somehow the boys became separated and Brierley ended up in the enormous city of Calcutta.
Brierley tried his best to find his way back home but nearly drowned and was almost sold into slavery in the process. The lost little boy ultimately ended up in an orphanage and was later adopted by Australian parents.
Although he was haunted by his birth family, he was so young when he was lost that he didn’t really know much about where he had come from, including the name of his hometown or how to find the family.
Brierley went to college and joined his adopted family at the business they ran but spent much of his spare time using satellite images of Google Earth to search his home country, India, for clues. His memory of his hometown was strong, so he’d inspect image after image of towns throughout India. Amazingly, as TIME reports, he found the train station where he used to beg with his brother, expanded his search to the surrounding area and found his hometown was called Ganesh Talai.
Where did he go next? Why, Facebook, of course. He was able to get in touch with locals and piece together his family. A month ago he flew to the poverty-stricken town and found his relatives.
Sadly, Brierley learned that the brother he’d been on the train with had been found dead on the tracks a month after his own disappearance. The poor mother lost two sons in the same month. Once reunited, communicating with a family who spoke a language he had long ago forgotten proved difficult; he had to rely mostly on facial expressions and gestures to understand what his long-lost family said.
Unbelievable. Like the stuff of movies. Can you imagine? I keep putting myself in his shoes, wondering if he regrets becoming lost on that train. Had he not become separated from his brother he’d never have been adopted, likely never would have gone to college or had all the opportunities he now has as a result of that one incident. But he missed out on a lifetime with his family. What do you think?
Photo Credit: KozMedia.com
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