The Remarkable Life Story of How Saroo Brierley Found His Birth Family And Inspired a Movie

The story of Saroo Brierley is one that has touched many people around the world and rightly so because of the moving tragedies he experienced in his childhood which later turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him. Brierley, a famous author, came into the limelight through the narration of his life ordeal in his autobiographical book entitled “A Long Way From Home”.

Having been accidentally separated from his biological Indian family at the mere age of five, the story of his attempts to find his family again and his success at locating his birth home, has endeared him to many people who read the story and the many others who watched the movie which his story was adapted into. Without the shadow of a doubt, the chronicle of Saroo Brierley’s ordeals in life is worth reading.

An Insight Into Saroo Brierley’s Rough Childhood

Saroo Brierley was born in Ganesh Talai, Khandwa, India, as Sheru Munshi Khan in 1981. Growing up in India, he had a very rough childhood and never had some of the comforts that children his age should have.

Brierley didn’t get much fatherly care and affection as a child because his father abandoned the family when he was at a very young age and this plunged the family into deep poverty. Saroo and his three other siblings were single-handedly raised by their mother, Kamla Munshi. Burdened by the need to provide for her kids, she did menial jobs in order to make ends meet but even at that, her earnings didn’t prevent her family from experiencing severe financial restraints because the money she made was just not enough to cater for them all.

Saroo Brierley
Saroo Brierley with his biological mother, Kamla Munshi

Kamla was unable to send her children to a school and this forced them to learn how to make a living from the streets. In fact, when he was just 5 years old, Saroo and his older brothers identified as Guddu and Kallu soon began to beg for money and food at the railway station in their town.

They were desperate to bring in more income for the family and survive. Sometimes, Guddu did some other kind of menial jobs like sweeping the floors of train carriages to make ends meet.

The Fateful Journey From Home

Saroo Brierley’s life changed forever on a certain day when his older brother, Guddu decided to go to the city of Burhanpur in India by train from their hometown, Khandwa, in order to find a better job. Saroo opted to go with him and they both left for the city. By the time the train arrived, Saroo Brierley was very tired as it was a 70-kilometre journey. His elder brother then asked him to wait at the station while he goes to handle his business and would be back.

After a while, when Saroo didn’t see his brother, he boarded another train that was parked in the station, hoping that his brother was on it. When he got on the train and didn’t see his brother, he went to sleep waiting for his brother to come for him as he promised. By the time he woke up, the train had travelled across many cities.

Saroo Brierley eventually alighted from the train at Howrah railway station in Kolkata when someone opened the door to his carriage. He had unknowingly travelled 1,500 km away from his hometown. Sadly, his brother who promised to come back for him was later killed by a train. Guddu, however, did come back for him that night but he was long gone to a place no one knew him.

Feeling terrified, Saroo Brierley tried to return back to his hometown by boarding different trains, however, because those trains were suburban ones, they only made it as far as the Howrah railway station. Brierley felt hopeless. He had no food and knew no one but he survived by scavenging scraps of food on the street whenever he could. He also slept underneath the station’s seats when night came.

Saroo Brierley Finds A New Family

After a long time of scavenging for food and sleeping under train station seats, Saroo Brierley finally decided to venture into the city and eventually found himself at the city police station. The police later moved him to the Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption where they tried to help him locate his family but Saroo’s knowledge about his hometown was very narrow.

Saroo Brierley
Saroo Brierley, far right, with his birth and adoptive mothers in his hometown in India. Courtesy Saroo Brierley

As a result of that, he was put up for adoption and ended up with the Brierley family who lived in Hobart, the capital and most populous city of the Australian island state of Tasmania. This was where he would spend the remaining part of his growing up days with his new family. Following the mispronunciation of his name Sheru by his foster parents, the mispronounced version ‘Saroo’ stuck.

Even though Saroo Brierley’s separation from his biological family was truly sad, it turned out to later benefit him in the most positive way. He encountered a positive turn around in his life after his adoption by the Brierley family who took great care of him and gave him what his real family did not have.

Saroo Brierley would later enrol in Australian International Hotel School, Canberra, and there, he studied Business and Hospitality.

A Glorious Return Back Home

Having the knowledge that he has a family somewhere, Brierley never stopped searching for his biological Indian family through Google Earth. He spent so many hours daily over the period of many moths to conduct searches using the satellite images on Google Earth by tracing railway lines pulling out from Howrah railway station.

Saroo Brierley later succeeded in tracing his hometown of Khandwa even though his memory of the place was very vague. Finally, in 2012, he travelled from Australia to India and proceeded to Khandwa where he started asking people if they knew his family. He also showed people his childhood photos in the process. Eventually, he was led to his mother who recognized him.

Saroo Brierley with his Indian family. Photo courtesy: Penguin Books India
Finding his biological mother again made Saroo Brierley euphoric. This was all he wanted since he became an adult. And he had returned home. He found out that his sister Shekila was now a schoolteacher and his surviving brother, Kallu was a factory manager. He has kept in touch with them ever since the reunion.

His Life Story Has Been Properly Documented

In 2013, Saroo Brierley published a book which he titled “A Long Way Home”. In the book, he described how he got separated from his family, how he was adopted and taken to Australia, and how he found his biological family again.

The book was released to a very warm reception because many people found the story very refreshing and heart-warming. It became an inspiration for many.

Because of the book’s popularity, it was eventually adapted into a major feature movie titled Lion in 2016. The movie was released to critical acclaim, receiving six Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards and winning two BAFTA Awards. The movie is also one of the highest-grossing Australian films of all time, having raked in an amazing $140 million worldwide.

The Woman In His Life

Very little is known about the woman in Saroo Brierley’s life. We know that Brierley is in a loving relationship with a woman called Lisa Williams. We also know that they met each other while he was in Australia.

However, information on the exact manner in which they met and how their love blossomed over the years is not readily available. The lovebirds are still together.


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