Man Uses Google Earth to Track Down Long-Lost Family in India

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An Indian man living in Australia has reunited with his birth family after 25 years with the help of vague childhood memories — and Google Earth.

In 1987, at age 5, Saroo Brierley boarded a train with his brother after a day of begging in Khandwa, a town in central India. The boy found himself in Kolkata, 900 miles away, separated from his brother. He attempted to find his way home, almost drowning in the Ganges and narrowly avoiding being sold into slavery, Australian newspaper the Mercury reports.

Eventually, Brierley ended up in an orphanage and was later adopted by Tasmanian parents. He studied at the University of Canberra and now helps run his adoptive family’s industrial supplies company. But, he said, he never forgot his roots and hoped to return to find his family, though he had very few details about where he came from or how to get there.

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So for the past 10 years, Brierley has scoured the satellite images of Google Earth, zooming in and out searching for any discernible clues. He found the train station where he used to beg with his brother, then examined the surrounding area and found that his hometown was called Ganesh Talai. He joined a Facebook group, messaging locals to piece the story together. And then, three weeks ago, he boarded a plane.

Once he arrived in the poverty-stricken town, Brierley indeed found his family. He also learned his brother, who’d accompanied him on the train, had been found dead on the tracks. But further communication with his family proved difficult, he said.

“There is some Hindi in my head but I have to observe their facial expressions and hand movements to make complete sense of what they say,” he told the Indian Express. He doesn’t plan on moving back to India, but hopes to go back to visit his family frequently. He’s even thinking of turning the whole saga into a movie.

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