An Indian man who was separated from his family 25 years ago, when he was just five years old, has found them using Google Earth. Saroo Brierley was begging at an Indian train station when he inadvertently boarded a train for Calcutta, 900 miles away. He spent the next month trying to find his way back to his family, nearly drowning in the River Ganges and almost being abducted by a man who intended to sell him as a slave.
Saroo was eventually taken in by an orphanage and was later adopted by an Australian family. Although he now helps to run his adoptive parent’s business, he never forgot where he came from. For years he searched for his family on the internet, hoping to recognise a landmark or a familiar scene. He told an Australian newspaper: “I kept in my head the images of the town I grew up in, the streets I used to wander and the faces of my family. I treasured those memories.”
After years spent searching the internet and using Google Earth, Saroo recognised images from his home town, Ganesh Talai. Three weeks ago, he flew to India and scoured the streets of the town until he found his family. The story has prompted opinion makers to praise Google Earth, which was once opposed for it’s potentially intrusive nature. We all remember the image of the man urinating in the street, knickers hanging on a washing line and naked sunbathers. There’s no doubt things have moved on since then – you can now explore a 4,000 year old Peruvian monster from your sofa or have a go on their flight simulator – but somehow the brand has been tainted by the thought it could be your undergarments swinging in the wind for all and sundry to zoom in on. Hopefully, thanks to Saroo’s dogged determinism and the internet wizzes at Google Earth, these images can be replaced with a story which can’t fail to warm even the most sceptical of hearts.