Born In: Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, India
Saroo Brierley is an Indian-born Australian businessman, author and public speaker who rose to fame after publishing his memoir, A Long Way Home, which was later adapted into the Oscar-nominated Australian biographical drama film Lion starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Sunny Pawar and Rooney Mara. Brierley was only five years old when he got separated from his family in Madhya Pradesh, India and ended up in an adoption home for lost children miles away in Kolkata. He was later adopted and raised by the Australian couple Sue and John Brierley in Tasmania. 25 years later, he was able to track down his hometown in India tracing Google Earth satellite images and was reunited with his family. As a motivational speaker, he often narrates his inspiring story in front of large audiences at prestigious institutions and organizations around the world.
Also Known As: Sheru Munshi Khan
mother: Fatima Munshi
siblings: Kallu, Shekila, Sheru
Born Country: India
education: Angliss International Hotel School
Saroo Brierley was born as Sheru Munshi Khan on May 22, 1981 in the Ganesh Talai suburb in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, India. He was three when his father left the family for his second wife. His construction worker mother Kamala, who later became known as Fatima after converting to Islam, hardly managed to make enough money to feed her three sons – Guddu, Kallu and Sheru – and only daughter Shekila. By the time he was five, Brierley was accompanying his brothers to the railway station to beg and to scavenge leftover food. On a fateful day, he nagged his 14-year-old brother Guddu to take him along on a train journey to the city of Burhanpur 70km away.
He was so tired after reaching there, his brother left him on a station bench to rest before going away for a while. However, his brother never returned, and unbeknownst to him, was killed in a train accident. He eventually boarded a train that took him almost 1500km away from his hometown to Howrah railway station near Calcutta (now Kolkata). Brierley, who could not count to ten and never learned about his surname or birthplace, failed to return home and survived by himself on the streets for three weeks before being taken to the Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption.
As luck would have it, Saroo Brierley moved further away from home when he was adopted by Sue and John Brierley, an Australian couple who could have children of their own but decided to adopt. They took him to Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, where he grew up with another Indian boy, Mantosh, whom the Brierleys adopted later. As he started his education in English, he forgot the little Hindi he knew. However, in 2007, while studying business and hospitality at the Australian International Hotel School in Canberra, he made several Indian friends and began searching for his hometown.
As an adult, Saroo Brierley became fascinated with Google Earth and spent countless hours over three years to trace his way backwards from the Howrah station, often taking advantage of the fast internet connection of his Australian girlfriend Lisa. He only remembered that the station he became lost in started with ‘B’ and that he used to play at a fountain near the railway tracks in his hometown. Finally on March 31, 2011, he was able to trace his hometown of Khandwa through satellite images, and further confirmed other details by joining a Khandwa-based Facebook group. In February 2012, he came to India to visit his hometown and enquired about his lost family showing pictures from his childhood in Hobart. Soon, the local people were able to unite him with his mother; surviving brother Kallu, a factory manager; and sister Shekila, a schoolteacher.
In 2013, Saroo Brierley documented his journey to find his long-lost family after 25 years in his memoir A Long Way Home, which gained a lot of attention in India and Australia. When the book was adapted into the 2016 film Lion (derived from his birth name ‘Sheru’), it became an international sensation and was even nominated in six categories in the ‘Academy Awards’. In the film, Dev Patel and Sunny Pawar portrayed adult and young Saroo respectively, while Nicole Kidman and David Wenham portrayed the Brierleys. Even though Brierley later returned to Australia due to his responsibilities towards his adoptive parents, he usually visits his family in India twice a year and keeps in touch with them over the internet. He bought his birthmother the home she previously rented and also sends her money regularly. While his biological mother did not want to settle in Australia due to the vast cultural disparity, his adoptive mother visited his hometown in India once. He also once travelled first class on the Kolkata Mail to Howrah to re-trace his journey as a five-year-old.
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