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Man finds long-lost family using Google Earth

  • Saroo Brierley was separated from his family 25 years ago
  • He found his village and family using Google Earth, Facebook
Man finds long-lost family using Google Earth

Saroo Brierly was just five-years-old when a childhood mistake led him away from his family and everything he knew.

After begging with his brother at a Khandwa train station in western India, Saroo fell asleep on a train he thought was leading him home. When he woke up, he was across the country, 900 miles away. He tried to find his way back, but for a small boy, the journey was dangerous. Saroo said he almost drowned in the Ganges River. He was also almost snatched up and sold as a slave. 

Eventually, he was found begging in Kolkata and was placed in an NGO orphanage, where he was adopted by an Australian couple. He grew up with them in Tasmania, and became a successful businessman.

But Saroo said he never forgot where he came from. He held the images of his childhood in his memory, hoping one day he could find his way back home. "I kept in my head the images of the town I grew up in, the streets I used to wander and the faces of my family. I treasured those memories," he said.

He had been searching for about a decade. He pored over Google Earth, trying to find something, anything, that resembled his hometown. "I spent so many hours zooming in and out, looking for something I recognized," he said. 

Finally, success. The village of Ganesh Talai, in the area of Khandwa, sparked something in his memory. This was home.

He joined a Facebook group for Ganesh Talai and began asking questions. One answer led to another, and about a month ago Saroo made the long trip back home. If finding the small town on a satellite globe wasn't a miracle, the fact that Saroo actually found his family -- among the crowds of the Ganesh Talai slum -- certainly is.

They are still very poor, but they live exactly where Saroo remembered. His mother, Kamla, said she had always hoped for a reunion. After Saroo went missing -- and after a frantic search -- Kamla said a fortune teller assured her she would see her son again.

"To this day, I still can't believe I managed to find my family, considering India's population size and how young I was when I lost them," Saroo said. Although he says he won't return to his hometown, he does hope to visit frequently. He also says he is planning to make a movie about his experience. 

"[It] will have everything," he said. 

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