Extraordinary Story Of Lost Boy; Found His Way Home Via Google Earth

TrainInKhandwaOn Friday, the BBC publshed an extraordinary human interest story about a young Indian man named Saroo, who was once a little boy who became very, very lost.

In 1986, Saroo was five years old, working as a "sweeper" on commuter trains with his older brother. After a day of toil, he nodded off on a train station bench, expecting his brother to wake him when it was time to catch a train home. When he awoke, he saw no sign of his brother. But a train sat at the platform, and Saroo assumed his brother was aboard. Saroo boarded and promptly dozed off again. When he awoke it was 14 hours later, and he was in desperately poor Calcutta. He was five, and didn't know the name of his own small hometown. He could tell no one where he was from.

From the Beeb:

"I was absolutely scared. I didn't know where I was. I just started to look for people and ask them questions."

Soon he was sleeping rough. "It was a very scary place to be. I don't think any mother or father would like to have their five year old wandering alone in the slums and trains stations of Calcutta."

The little boy learned to fend for himself. He became a beggar, one of the many children begging on the streets of the city. "I had to be quite careful. You could not trust anyone." Once he was approached by a man who promised him food and shelter and a way back home. But Saroo was suspicious. "Ultimately I think he was going to do something not nice to me, so I ran away."

Saroo eventually found his way into an orphanage, and was adopted by a couple in Tasmania. He settled into a new life, but was understandably intrigued by the mystery of his past. And that past would likely have stayed mysterious were it not for the advent of Google Earth. Saroo still didn't know the name of his hometown, but he remembered its landmarks well enough. From the Beeb:

"[Google Earth] was just like being Superman. You are able to go over and take a photo mentally and ask, 'Does this match?' And when you say, 'No', you keep on going and going and going."

Eventually Saroo hit on a more effective strategy. "I multiplied the time I was on the train, about 14 hours, with the speed of Indian trains and I came up with a rough distance, about 1,200km."

He drew a circle on a map with its centre in Calcutta, with its radius about the distance he thought he had travelled. Incredibly, he soon discovered what he was looking for: Khandwa. "When I found it, I zoomed down and bang, it just came up. I navigated it all the way from the waterfall where I used to play."

Saroo eventually visited Khandwa, where he found both heartbreak and something like closure. Read the Beeb for details. Meanwhile, movie producers and publishers have apparently taken an interest in Saroo's story — as it seems likely will Google, whose Google Earth always seemed semi-miraculous anyway, though never so much as now.



  1. ratbastard says

    The poverty in India is obscene, even today. And their Caste system is evil. I’ve interacted with many Indians, almost all from the ruling class, and as a group they are to a T some of the most obnoxious, vulgar, vain and bigoted snobs I’ve ever encountered. I pity the poor Indians.

  2. shane says

    Wow, RATBASTARD, I’d have to echo LITTLE KIWI here when I say that if we knew who you were, and you weren’t posting anonymously, you’d never write what you just did. Think about it.

  3. ratbastard says


    Exactly what did I just post that was ‘bad’ ? What? I said I’ve interacted with MANY Indians from the middle class well to do ruling class/caste, and quite frankly they were as a group to a large degree aholes, especially snobs. Other Indians enlightened me to their caste system and how this affects the people in Indian culture. Just my experiences and opinion. I didn’t say all Indian people are aholes and I sympathize with the plight of poor Indians and those from lower ‘Caste’. What exactly is wrong with that, Shane?


    Little Canadian has a very big and obnoxious mouth. He/she/it said and continues to say things about my dad [and mom] that would get him/her/it a broken nose at the very least if he/she/it were to do it in front of someone , not on the internet.

    And OF COURSE I post anonymous; this is the internet full of crazy people like Little Canadian. Last thing I’d need is to be stalked by a loon like Little Canadian.

  4. ratbastard says

    Some gay guys get ‘bashed’ because they have big phuking mouths and attitude. They like to endlessly talk smack like an angry G.F. Little Canadian falls into this category. An obnoxious punk, of any sexual orientation, can expect to get bashed because of their attitude at some point.

    And if Little Canadian talked smack like he does on here in the places I grew up in, he wouldn’t be just ‘bashed’, he’d be dead. Try using your ‘attitude’ around say Tyrone in The Projects, Little Canadian, and see the response you’d get. You’d better hope there’s a decent trauma center [centre for U Little Canadian] near by.

  5. Paul R says

    RatBastard, I don’t think your comments are helping your cause. The upper class tends to be obnoxious snobs everywhere. The caste system has largely been dismantled. India has more than a billion people. Making blanket statements about large swaths of the population makes you sound pretty dumb.

    There are a lot of poor countries. About half of the world’s people live on less than $2 a day. At least a quarter live on less $1 a day. Also, saying some gay guys deserve to be bashed is a hideous thing to hear from a presumably gay guy.

  6. Jld says

    This story broke in US a couple of weeks ago, but the details were very different. In the US version, his brother and he fell asleep on the train and his brother later died during their struggles to survive. The US story showed a picture of him reunited with his family. However, With such key facts of the story altered, I can only surmise that this story is a fraud.

  7. Paul R says

    It would also be rather odd for an Indian boy to be adopted by a family in Australia.

    Perhaps Google planted it.

  8. ratbastard says

    @Paul R,


    Some people of ANY orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, ask to be ‘bashed’ or assaulted. Yes, this is true. Those kinds of people lack impulse control, talk a lot of trash/smack, and behave like punks. This type of attitude [like Little Canadian] will most definitely more likely lead to your being physically assaulted. Don’t twist my words, which is what you did in your post.

    Also, I CLEARLY said some [in my experience, the majority I’ve encountered] of ruling class Indians are aholes. I stand by this statement. Many still have the habit of holding ‘servants’ as indentured servants/slaves, so please don’t marginalize their obnoxious, backward behavior by comparing them to, for example, western wealthy or middle class people. A week doesn’t go by in NYC area without some scandal involving ‘servants’ for well off Indians being held against their will as slaves.

    I assume Polyboy is the stalker, Little Canadian

  9. Paul R says

    I’m pretty sure that I can see who lacks impulse control, talks a lot of trash, and behaves like a punk in these comments.


    I agree with many here about the validity of this story. What gets me is, this kid doesn’t know anything about where he is from, but he does know the he was on the train for 14 hours. I am sure at 5 years old, this kid doesn’t have a watch. I never wear a watch and never know if 1 or 6 hours has passed. I wish I didn’t read this story, to me it doesn’t add up. Don’t take me as a being a bitchy queen, as someone who used to live and work in Hollywood and in the “industry” so much out there is fabricated, for our enjoyment.

  11. anon says

    I’m not sure this story passes the smell test for veracity. Anyway, the kid should have asked people where the train came from and when the returning train would leave and got back on. I had to do the same thing as a kid on the subway.

  12. Oliver says

    This entire things smacks of a PR stunt by either Google Earth or the Weinstein’s (similar to how they played the whole ratings thing with Bully).

  13. says

    The story sounds like it’s made for the movies in that it doesn’t quite ring true, so either a bunch of us are cynical or we’re rightly cynical.

    As for the other dilemma on this thread, which has nothing to do with the veracity of the heartwarming tale, when someone reports having consistently negative experiences with groups of people, thinking them obnoxious or vain or what have you, it’s likely that their impressions of you are equally and deservedly abysmal. In other words, the answer to why you only have unpleasant interactions with others is probably in the mirror.