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Read an Excerpt 1. My mum—my adoptive mother—had put it there to help me feel at home when I arrived from that country at the age of six to live with them in She had to teach me what the map represented—I was completely uneducated. Mum had decorated the house with Indian objects—there were some Hindu statues, brass ornaments and bells, and lots of little elephant figurines. She had also put some Indian printed fabric in my room, across the dresser, and a carved wooden puppet in a brightly colored outfit. But my skin color would always have given away my origins, and anyway, she and my father chose to adopt a child from India for a reason, as I will go into later.
Long before I could read them, I knew that the immense V of the Indian subcontinent was a place teeming with cities and towns, with deserts and mountains, rivers and forests—the Ganges, the Himalayas, tigers, gods! I would stare up at the map, lost in the thought that somewhere among all those names was the place I had come from, the place of my birth. Although official documents showed my birthday as May 22, , the year had been estimated by Indian authorities, and the date in May was the day I had arrived at the orphanage from which I had been offered up for adoption.
Happily for all of us, I was adopted by the Brierleys. All I knew was that it was a long way from Calcutta, and no one had been able to help me find it. Of course, when I first arrived in Australia, the emphasis was on the future, not the past. Rather than trying to rush me into it, she thought it was far more important at the outset to comfort and care for me, and gain my trust.
She also knew an Indian couple in the neighborhood, Saleen and Jacob, and we would visit them regularly to eat Indian food together. I picked up my new language quite quickly, as children often do. But at first I spoke very little about my past in India. But deep down, it mattered to me. Daytime was generally better, with lots of activity to distract me, but my mind was always busy.
Extract | A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley - Penguin Books Australia
As a consequence of this and my determination not to forget, I have always recalled my childhood experiences in India clearly, as an almost complete picture—my family, my home, and the traumatic events surrounding my separation from them have remained fresh in my mind, sometimes in great detail.
Mum and Dad were very affectionate, right from the start, always giving me lots of cuddles and making me feel safe, secure, loved, and above all, wanted. I bonded with them readily, and very soon trusted them completely.
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Even at the age of six I would always accept as the year of my birth , I understood that I had been awarded a rare second chance. I quickly became Saroo Brierley. Once I was safe and secure in my new home in Hobart, I thought perhaps it was somehow wrong to dwell on the past—that part of the new life was to keep the old locked away—so I kept my nighttime thoughts to myself. It was only later, when I began to open up to people about my experiences, that I knew from their reactions it was out of the ordinary.
Occasionally the night thoughts would spill over into the day. Its images of the little boy trying to survive alone in a sprawling city, in the hope of returning to his mother, brought back disturbing memories so sharply that I wept in the dark cinema. After that, my parents only took me to fun Bollywood-style movies. Seeing or hearing babies cry also affected me strongly, probably because of memories of my little sister, Shekila.
Lion: A Long Way Home
The most emotional thing was seeing other families with lots of children. But eventually I began talking about the past. Gradually, my English improved; we were speaking Hinglish, but we were all learning. I told Mum and Dad a few more things, like the fact that my father had left the family when I was very little. Most of the time, though, I concentrated on the present: I had started going to school, and I was making new friends and discovering a love of sport.
It was an emotional conversation, and Mum held me close during our talk. We put in where each member of my family slept—even the order in which we lay down at night. We returned to the map and refined it as my English improved.
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But in the whirl of memories brought on by first making that map, I was soon telling Mum about the circumstances of my becoming lost, as she looked at me, amazed, and took notes. Talking enthusiastically in Hindi to my fellow adoptees inevitably brought back the past very vividly.
I know the way. Soon after that, I told an even more complete version of events to a teacher I liked at school.
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For over an hour and a half, she wrote notes, too, with that same amazed expression. Strange as I found Australia, for Mum and my teacher, hearing me talk about India must have been like trying to understand things that had occurred on another planet. Not surprisingly, there are gaps here and there. Although repeated revisiting and searching the past for clues might have disturbed some of the evidence, much of my childhood experience remains vivid in my memory. Back then, it was a relief to tell my story, as far as I understood it.
Now, since the life-changing events that sparked after my thirtieth birthday, I am excited by the prospect that sharing my experiences might inspire hope in others. Getting Lost Some of my most vivid memories are the days I spent watching over my baby sister, Shekila, her grubby face smiling up at me as we played peekaboo.
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She always looked at me with adoring eyes, and it made me feel good to be her protector and hero. In the cooler seasons, Shekila and I spent many nights waiting alone in the chilly house like newly hatched chicks in a nest, wondering if our mother would come home with some food. During the hot months of the year, my family would join the others with whom we shared the house and gather together outside in the courtyard, where someone played the harmonium and others sang. I had a real sense of belonging and well-being on those long, warm nights.
If there was any milk, the women would bring it out and we children got to share it. The babies were fed first, and if any was left over, the older ones got a taste. I loved the lingering sensation of its sticky sweetness on my tongue. On those evenings I used to gaze upward, amazed at how spectacular the night sky was. Some stars shone brightly in the darkness, while others merely blinked. That was in our first house, where I was born, which we shared with another Hindu family. Each group had their own side of a large central room, with brick walls and an unsealed floor made of cowpats and mud.
It was very simple but certainly no chawl—those warrens of slums where the unfortunate families of the megacities like Mumbai and Delhi find themselves living. Despite the closeness of the quarters, we all got along. My memories of this time are some of my happiest. My father spent very little time with us I later discovered he had taken a second wife , and so my mother raised us by herself.
My mother was very beautiful, slender, with long, lustrous black hair—I remember her as the loveliest woman in the world. She had broad shoulders, and limbs made of iron from all her hard work. Her hands and face were tattooed, as was the custom, and most of the time she wore a red sari. I do recall that he wore white from top to bottom, his face was square and broad, and his curly dark hair was sprinkled with gray.
As well as my mother and my baby sister, Shekila, whose name was Muslim unlike ours, there were also my older brothers, Guddu and Kallu, whom I loved and looked up to. Guddu was tall and slim, with curly black hair down to his shoulders. Kallu was heavier than Guddu, broad from top to bottom, with thin hair.
When my father did live with us, he could be violent, taking his frustrations out on us. When he was a young man the advent of Google Earth led him to pore over satellite images of the country for landmarks he recognised.
And one day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for. Lion: A Long Way Home is a moving and inspirational true story that celebrates the importance of never letting go of what drives the human spirit — hope. With clear recollections and good old-fashioned storytelling, Saroo Find your local bookstore at booksellers. 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. Our Lists. Hi-Res Cover. Favourite About Extract. Home Contact us Help Free delivery worldwide. Free delivery worldwide.
Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Lion : A Long Way Home. Aged just five, Saroo Brierley lost all contact with his family in India, after waiting at a train station for his brother who never returned. Discover the inspiring, true story behind the film, Lion. This is the heart breaking and original tale of the lost little boy who found his way home twenty-five years later.
Twenty-five years later, I crossed the world to find my way back home.