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Book Review: Lion by Saroo Brierly

When a 5-year-old gets lost in Kolkata, just the way Saroo Brierly did decades back, then hope becomes a rare thing. In a magnificent story of going back to his roots, Lion By Saroo Brierly himself shares his heart-wrenching journey of getting lost, how lucky he was to be adopted by a warm Australian family, and the urge to find back home that never went away.

Lion is a memoir of Saroo finding his family back using Google Earth. At the memoir’s start, Saroo begins explaining the story from his background. One of the four children to a single mother, Saroo’s family lived in utter poverty. He was one the kids with bloated hunger bellies that we come across in newspapers and journals. He spent his days helping out his mother foraging for food, whereas his two brothers Kallu and Guddu did odd jobs. They also had a small sister, Shakeila, who Saroo was most attached to and his mother trusted him to take care of her when she went out for work.

One day, he accompanied his brother Guddu to the railway station where he did odd jobs. Saroo, out of sheer sleep and hunger, passed out on the platform’s bench. His brother Guddu asked him to stay where he was and he will be back to get him, and Saroo went into deep slumber. He woke up at a time when he couldn’t find his brother Guddu anywhere. In the panic, he jumped on a train and was not able to get down, a train that took him away into the night.

When the train finally stopped, he arrived in Kolkata, the bustling city where thousands of kids are abandoned and lost on the streets. Saroo began his search by stopping people and asking them about Ganeistalay, his hometown. But nobody could understand what he was trying to say. Saroo’s mother, on the other hand, didn’t even have his photograph to search for him.

Somehow, Saroo cheated death and trafficking in Kolkata and was finally taken to an orphanage and then got adopted by Brierly’s in Australia. But the feeling of home never left him. And such an amazing parents Brierly’s were, they supported his flashbacks of memories of home and helped him time to time to cope with the same. Until one day, Saroo decided to look them up. Twenty-five years and eight months of rigorous Goggle Earth search later, he finally found the home.

Lion is a story that will seep right into your heart, just like the movie did. Though there are some detailing differences that I noticed when I read the book, which is why I always prefer to read the book than watching the movie. Lion has been written straight from the heart, without any fanfare or twists and turns. It’s a simple memoir of a boy who got lost and then decades later, found his family.

When Saroo did find his family, he could have acted like a regular person who would’ve stayed back with them, leaving the Brierly’s behind. But he gives priority to Brierly’s, simply telling them that he may have found his birth mother, but Brierly is what will be his family forever. And that fact nobody can change. The Brierly’s gave a lost child a hope and new life, something that many crave for when they are lost from their home.

I also came across new organizations that help children like Saroo rehabilitate for good. I was not aware that international adoptions are possible in India, and this fact was really refreshing to read in Lion.

Another thing I observed about the Lion is the tragic insight into the life of poor people of India, who can’t even find their lost kids and then finally give up as the turn of fate. The story is remarkable and makes up for a brilliant read. So make sure you pick your copy soon.

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