An Indian boy named Saroo was only four years old when his life changed dramatically. For his mother, it was the beginning of a nightmare that would last 25 long years.
Saroo lived with his mother and his three siblings in a small village in India. He often saw his mother cry because their life wasn’t easy. One day, he went along with his brother Guddu, who now and then earned a little money sweeping out trains. After boarding the train, his brother left him alone, saying, “Just stay here and I’ll come back.” Saroo decided to take a nap, figuring his brother would wake him up when he returned. But he didn’t return. Instead, when Saroo woke up, he was all alone in the wagon and had no idea where he was!
Saroo was unable to read, write or count. He not only didn’t know the name of his hometown, but he also didn’t know what the region was called nor the name of his family. He had no way to contact his mother! At the tender age of four, Saroo found himself all alone, begging in the streets of Calcutta.
It didn’t take long before a teenager noticed Saroo wandering the streets alone and brought him to a center for abandoned children. They took him in and soon after, Saroo was placed for adoption by the Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption. Fortunately, an Australian family adopted him and his life took a completely different and unexpected path, far from the struggle and danger he had known… but also far away from everything familiar, especially from his mother and siblings, whom he missed terribly!
Meanwhile, Saroo’s mother back in India was looking everywhere for her missing boys. She tried contacting the authorities, but there was no trace of them. She was inconsolable with grief and cried daily.
In Australia, Saroo’s adoptive mother hung a map of India in his room to remind him of his roots. Every day, he woke up and saw the map of his home country and was haunted by questions: Where was his family? What had become of them? Would he ever see them again?
Saroo never stopped wondering. Many years later, as an adult, he started looking for his family using an unusual method… Google Earth! It was his only hope. He spent entire days zooming in and out of Calcutta’s surroundings, virtually walking down every alley, hoping to see something he recognized.
One day, he was amazed to come across a very familiar-looking bridge near a factory by a river. That was it! The place where he had lost his brother! From that moment, the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. On the satellite images, he spotted a fountain where he had been injured 25 years earlier. Then, the ultimate revelation. The name of his village: Ganesh Talai.
Saroo could hardly believe it. With his heart in his throat, he flew to India and took the train leading him to the village where he was born. It was like traveling back in time. A flashback. Then another.
As he approached the house that he grew up in, his heart began beating wildly. Would his family recognize him?
Three women were standing nearby. Without a word, one of them took him in her arms, immediately recognizing her little boy from 25 years ago. It was his mother. “She rang my sister and my brother to say that, you know, ‘Your brother has just all of a sudden appeared, like a ghost,’” Saroo said with a smile. “And then the family has reunited again.”
Saroo was overcome with emotion. After all these years of searching, he saw his family again for the first time since that fateful day so long ago when he got lost in the sprawling city. Almost everyone in his family, that is. Sadly, he learned that something terrible had happened to his older brother Guddu. He had been found one month after he had disappeared, crushed by a train. Despite the terrible sadness, this news brought, Saroo was overjoyed to have found his original family again.
“It was a needle in a haystack,” the young man said. “But the needle was there. Everything was there! Everything we have in the world is at the tap of a button, but you’ve got to have the will and determination…”
Now that he has found his family again, Saroo sends them money every month so that his mother doesn’t have to work so hard anymore.
In developed countries, four-year-old children play with their friends, have lavish birthday parties, get taken to amusement parks, and have fancy electronic toys. In India, they beg for coins on the trains to help their families to survive. Saroo’s story has a happy ending, but millions of young children aren’t so lucky and grow up in terrible poverty.
Saroo was fortunate to be adopted by loving parents. In 2015, he published a book about his incredible life called A Long Journey Home. After his mother had shed so many tears in mourning for her two sons, Saroo’s journey finally ended by bringing her tears of happiness. What a beautiful tribute to this young man’s determination and ingenuity.
Here’s a video about Saroo’s amazing story: