It was a decision that would change his life forever.
Twenty-five years ago, Saroo Brierley was begging with his brother inside a train station in Khandwa, India.
Saroo accidentally boarded a train going to wrong way and fell asleep. When he woke up, he was on the other side of the country, miles away from his home.
A train going the wrong way would change the outcome of Saroo’s life forever
For a month, the five-year-old lived by himself on the streets of India trying to find his way back.
During that time when he was alone on the streets, Saroo almost drowned in the River Ganges. A man also tried to abduct Saroo and sell him into slavery.
Finally, a charity organization rescued Saroo. He was adopted by an Australian couple.
Saroo and his adoptive parents in Australia
Growing up, Saroo wondered about his family back in India.
During his entire childhood, Saroo would have memories and flashbacks of his life in India, but no way to locate where he had come from.
India has a population of approximately 1.2-billion people – how would Saroo ever find his family?
Saroo’s adoptive mother kept a map of India hanging in his room as a child.
“I woke up every morning seeing that map, and hence, it kept the memories alive,” said Saroo.
As an adult, Saroo was determined to finally find his family. His tool? A different kind of map.
Saroo turned to Google Maps and Google Earth to try and locate his family.
Using landmarks and his memories, Saroo searched endlessly on the computer for his family.
“Using Google Earth, I spent so many hours zooming in and out looking for something I recognized,” he said.
Eventually, after years of looking on Google Maps, Saroo found something familiar.
Saroo started his search around the Calcutta train station and using Google Earth, looked for familiar landmarks.
Saroo spotted the train station where he had been separated from his family over two decades ago.
From there, he located the small village of Ganesh Talai. The village, matched the one from his memories.
Saroo booked a plane ticket and traveled back in hopes of finding his family.
Even though he was sure he had found the right village, Saroo still had to track down his family. He had no idea if they even in the same village – or alive.
“People would say, ‘You’re trying to find a needle in a haystack. You’ll never find it,'” said Saroo.
After 25 years, Saroo returned to the home where he was born. What happens next? You’ll be in tears.
Saroo approached his childhood home in India and walked through his old neighborhood.
He turned around the corner and saw three women standing in a row.
“..the middle one stepped forward and I thought, ‘This is your mother,'” said Saroo.
Saroo with his birth mother reunited in India
Just as Saroo had searched endlessly for his family, they had been looking for him too.
“We tried to find him everywhere. All fortune-tellers claimed we would be reunited one day,” said his elder brother, Kallu.
Saroo with his birth mother and adoptive mother, Sue
Saroo still lives in Australia, but continues to use technology to stay connected to his family back in India.
He has turned his remarkable story into a book titled A Long Way Home.
A film version of his story, Lion, started filming in 2015. It will star Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel.
His amazing story shows that no matter how far you wander away from home, you’ll always find your way back to your roots.