Google Earth Helps Reunite Indian Family After 24 Years

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I remember the first time I used Google Earth to look at satellite photos of my house. It was a little bit scary, but it was even more awesome. At the time I couldn't imagine any practical application for the technology, though I assumed maybe it would come in handy for someone. Turns out it did.

Thirty-year-old Saroo Brierley, of Australia, recently found that application when he used Google Earth to find his way home. Maybe you've done something similar: gone out Friday night, had a few too many at the bar, got turned around in a late-night quest for falafel, and next thing you know you're pulling up google maps on your phone to find navigate those four long blocks back to your bed. No. Brierly's story tops yours. His quest spans 24 years and two continents.

You see, back in 1987, then six-year-old Brierley went by Sheru. Back then Sheru begged daily at the Khandwa railway station near their village of Talai. One day, though, he and his brother got on a train to neighboring Burhandpur, and then fell asleep. You know that sinking feeling when you fall asleep on a train, and you don't wake up until a few stops further down the line? Imagine winding up 900 miles from home. And you're six.

That's what happened to Sheru, who became separated from his brother, finally winding up, alone, in Calcutta. While it's not clear what happened after that, you can imagine that it wasn't a terribly good life for a six-year-old, more than a day's travel from his family and lost in a major metropolis.

At some point, over a month later, Sheru was rescued by an NGO, labelled a "lost child," and finally was adopted by a childless Australian couple, becoming Saroo Brierley. They raised him in Australia, where he ultimately took a business degree from the University of Canberra. Brierley now owns an industrial shop in Tasmania.

Brierley's adopted parents encouraged him to find his biological family, and ten years ago, he started using the internet to search for them. Last month he finally found them.

Brierley used an old photograph, his distant memories, and Google Earth, scouring the satellite images for a village that matched his memories. He finally found that village, the Talai slum in Khandwa, and recently contacted members of a facebook group dedicated to the town, who put him in touch with his family.


“I was lucky to find my family,’’ Brierley told The Indian Express, though he noted that after nearly 25 years away, communication with them is difficult. “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.’’ Brierly doesn't plan to return to his hometown, but he does hope to stay in frequent contact with his family.

His eldest brother says the family knew they would be reunited someday. “We tried to find him everywhere. All fortune-tellers claimed we would be reunited one day,’’ he said, via The Indian Express.

[Source: The Mercury. Photo Source: The Mercury, via The Blaze. H/T: Gizmodo.]

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