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Google Earth Helps Reunite Indian Mother and Son After 25 Years

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Since its inception, Google Earth (GOOG) has spawned a myriad of amazing uses, including a project that maps the continued devastation going on in Darfur and another that produces climate prediction models to raise awareness of climate change.
But in terms of personal use, the account of how Google Earth came in handy for Saroo Brierley might be hard to beat.
In 1986, a five-year-old Saroo was working alongside his older brother as a sweeper on trains in India. One night, Saroo got separated from his brother and found himself alone in Calcutta, 14 hours away from his hometown, with no idea how to get back.
He soon became a street beggar, like many other children in Calcutta, before he was accepted by an orphanage and put up for adoption.
A couple from Tasmania, the Brierleys, adopted Saroo and he quickly took to his new life.

However, as he grew older, Saroo felt an ever-increasing urge to track down his birth family, which proved difficult because he did not know the name of his hometown. This was when he turned to Google Earth, as the BBC reports.

All he had to go on were his vivid memories. So he began using Google Earth to search for where he might have been born…

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 made the journey to India and managed to reunite with his long-lost birth mother, with whom he still keeps in contact. But as for his brother, Saroo learnt that he passed away just a month after he had disappeared, making his homecoming a bittersweet one.

Expect to see Saroo’s astonishing story at a cinema or bookstore near you sometime in the future, because publishers and producers are already knocking on his door, hoping to turn his experience into a book and a movie.
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