A Long Way Home
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A Long Way Home

by

They've gone.

I've been thinking about this day for twenty-five years. Growing up half a world away, with a new name and a new family, wondering whether I would ever see my mother and brothers and sister again. And now here I am, standing at a door near the corner of a run-down building in a poor district of a small, dusty town in central India – the place I grew up – and no-one lives there.

It's empty.

The last time I stood here I was five years old.

The door, its hinges broken, is so much smaller than I remember it as a child – now I would have to bend over to fit through it. There's no point in knocking. Through the window, as well as some gaps in the familiar crumbling brick wall, I can see into the tiny room my family shared, the ceiling only a little higher than my head.

This was my worst fear, so paralysing that I suppressed it almost completely – that once I finally found my home, after years of searching, my family wouldn't be in it.

Not for the first time in my life, I'm lost and I don't know what to do. This time I'm thirty, I've got money in my pocket and a ticket home, but I feel just like I did on that railway platform all those years ago – it's hard to breathe, my mind is racing and I wish I could change the past.

Then the neighbour's door opens. A young woman in red robes comes out of the better maintained flat next door, holding a baby in her arms. She's curious, understandably. I look Indian, but my Western clothes are probably a little too new, my hair carefully styled – I'm obviously an outsider, a foreigner. To make matters worse, I can't speak her language, so when she speaks to me, I can only guess that she's asking me what I want here. I remember barely any Hindi and I'm not confident about how to pronounce the little I do know. I say, 'I don't speak Hindi, I speak English,' and I'm astonished when she responds, 'I speak English, a little.' I point at the abandoned room and recite the names of the people who used to live there – 'Kamla, Guddu, Kallu, Shekila' – and then I point to myself and say, 'Saroo.'

This time the woman remains silent. Then I remember something Mum gave me back in Australia, for just this situation. I scrabble around in my daypack and pull out an A4 page with colour photographs of me as a child. Again I point to myself, and then say 'little' as I point to the boy in the photographs. 'Saroo.'

I try to remember who lived next door to us when this was my home. Was there a little girl who could now be this woman?

She stares at the page, then at me. I'm not sure if she understands, but this time she speaks, in hesitant English.

'People . . . not live here . . . today,' she says.

Although she is only confirming what I know, to hear her say it aloud hits me hard. I feel dizzy. I'm left standing there in front of her, unable to move.

I've always known that even if I managed to find my way back here, my family might have moved. Even in my short time with them, they had moved here from another place – poor people often don't have much say in where they live, and my mother used to have to take whatever work she could get.

These are the thoughts that start coming out of the box I've put them in. The other possibility – that my mother is dead – I jam back inside.

A man who has noticed us approaches, so I start my mantra over again, reciting the names of my mother, Kamla, my brothers, Guddu and Kallu, my sister, Shekila, and me, Saroo. He is about to say something when another man wanders up and takes over. 'Yes? How can I help?' he says in clear English.

This is the first person I've been able to talk to properly since I arrived in India, and my story comes tumbling out quickly: I used to live here when I was a little boy, I went off with my brother and got lost, I grew up in another country, I couldn't even remember the name of this place, but now I've found my way back here, to Ganesh Talai, to try to find my mother, my brothers and my sister. Kamla, Guddu, Kallu, Shekila.

He looks surprised at the story and I recite the family names yet again.

After a moment, he says, 'Please wait here. I'll be back in two minutes.'

My mind races with possibilities – what's he gone to get? Someone who might know what happened to them? An address, even? But has he understood who I am? I don't have to wait long before he's back. And he says the words I'll never forget: 'Come with me. I'm going to take you to your mother.'

Title:A Long Way Home
Edition Language:English
ISBN:
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:288 pages

    A Long Way Home Reviews

  • PattyMacDotComma
    Feb 01, 2017

    5★I remember hearing about this story when it ‘broke’ a few years ago, and then it surfaced again when Nicole Kidman starred in the movie LION, and the rest will, no doubt, be history.First, I h...

  • Kelly (and the Book Boar)
    Feb 07, 2017

    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/A Long Way Home will probably end up as a selection on all the lists featuring inspirational stories and here I go giving it a 2 Star. What...

  • Maria Espadinha
    Sep 25, 2015

    Destino ou Acidente ?A Vida tem daqueles Dias que só nos permitem satisfazer os caprichos de Sua Majestade, El Rei D. Inesperado.Ora foi num desses Dias que Saroo, um jovem com apenas 5 anos de idade...

  • Sharon
    Jun 21, 2014

    At the age of five, Saroo an Indian boy becomes lost after after being separated from his brother. After traveling on a train for quite some time, Saroo ends up in Calcutta. Saroo is not only frighten...

  • Jennifer
    Jan 05, 2017

    A Long Way Home is Saroo Brierley's personal account of finding himself tragically lost from his family at the young age of 5 years old. His journey back to his birth mother 25 years later is a truly ...

  • Sarah
    Dec 16, 2016

    3.5 Stars.I found out about this book when I watched the trailer for the 2016 movie "Lion". The trailer had me in tears and then when I saw it was based on this true story, I knew I had to read this. ...

  • Kirsti (Melbourne on my mind)
    Jan 29, 2017

    Good Lord. FEELINGS. This book is effectively two separate stories:1. How Saroo got lost and ended up being adopted by an Australian family.2. Saroo's search for his home 20 years later.The first stor...

  • Brenda
    Jul 10, 2013

    When Saroo Brierley was born, he was born into poverty in a small town in India. Of course he wasn’t Saroo Brierley then, and when he became lost he was only five, and could only remember his name w...

  • Laura
    Nov 03, 2014

    This story was amazing and what's more IS it's not a work of fiction, it's TRUE! I have a strong love for non-fiction when stories like this come across as 'one in a million' chances!I'm sure everyone...

  • Lauren Cecile
    Feb 06, 2017

    Beautiful, poignant memoir!...