Saroo Brierley: Almost drowned in Hooghly twice

New Delhi: Businessman Saroo Brierley during a Meet & Greet session in New Delhi on Feb 2, 2017. (Photo: Amlan Paliwal/IANS)
New Delhi: Businessman Saroo Brierley during a Meet & Greet session in New Delhi on Feb 2, 2017. (Photo: Amlan Paliwal/IANS)

India-born Australian businessman Saroo Brierley, whose intriguing life journey has been captured on celluloid in the Oscar-nominated “Lion”, says he almost drowned in the Hooghly river twice.

“Lion” is based on Brierley’s 2014 book “A Long Way From Home” which recounts how the author, as a child, gets separated from his family, ends up on the streets of Kolkata and is adopted by an Australian couple.

He returns to India 25 years later to track down his biological family.

“I would not want any father or son to go through this. I always go to the Howrah train station whenever I am in Kolkata. It reminds me of what happened. I was almost drowning in the Hooghly twice,” Brierley said at the Kolkata Literature Festival on Saturday.

“I came off the train, stepped off the platform and there was a river of people, was pushed here and there and I was crying. It was an extremely scary time,” he said.

In 1987, Brierley, as a five year-old, got accidentally separated from his brother while travelling on a train in India.

He woke up 1,000 miles from home in Kolkata. After surviving many challenges, he was adopted by a couple in Australia.

Twenty-five years later, he set out to find his lost family banking on an ambitious Google Earth hunt and memories of his native village.

Saroo Brierley Young 1 - Copy

“You really just had the memory of your mother, brother and sister. You had no photo. It took me a bit of time to realise that this is my (biological) mother. It had been over 25 years,” he recalled.

“Lion” received six Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Dev Patel), Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Talking about his experiences, Brierley thoughtfully replied: “Catching the wrong train can sometimes get you to the right station.”

Brierley, who had a say in the script of the movie, marvelled at the power of the human brain, conceding memories are the key to his identity.

“If I had shut all those memories down then I wouldn’t have been able to do it. You have to think about how amazing the human brain is. The brilliant things it can do…” he said.

“I had been searching for her (biological mother) for over 25 years in my sub-conscious mind. I have two families now. I was trying to find a needle in a haystack,” he added.

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