Title: A Long Way Home
Ganesh Talai as seen on Google Earth
After watching Lion, shedding a few tears during the movie, and then spending the next two weeks obsessively listening to Never Give Up by Sia, an excellent song featured on the soundtrack, I knew that it was time to finally pick up the book that the movie was based on. I put the book on my hold list at the local library and waited a few weeks before it was available. When I finally had the book in my hands, I dove right in.
Saroo Brierley, a five year old living in rural India, found himself lost on India’s expansive railway system. A train eventually took him to Calcutta, almost a thousand miles from his home. He managed to survive living on the streets for a while and was eventually adopted by an Australian family. He spent the next 25 years living a normal life, attending high school and universities, though he always had his childhood memories of his mother, siblings, and hometown in the back of his mind. In his late 20’s, he began searching for his home on Google Earth, after the software was made publically available. Miraculously (after many months of searching), Saroo was actually able to find his old hometown and (fast forwarding the story a bit here) was reunited with his Indian family.
My current neighborhood as seen from Google Earth
This in itself sounds crazy, and to see how crazy it is, I poked around on Google Earth, trying to imagine what it would have been like to spend hours and hours looking for a place based on memories from 25 years ago. From looking at the Google Earth image of Ganesh Talai, it seems impossible to distinguish buildings and landmarks from above, especially for the image of Ganesh Talai which is poorer quality than the images of U.S. cities. I could hardly recognize my own home and based on how many things have changed over the past 20 years, it must have taken a lot of careful studying and determination for Saroo to find his home. But when he finally did, that moment forever changed his life.