The full story of Saroo Brierley

Back in March we told you about the amazing story of Saroo Brierley, the Indian man who became separated from his family at age five and found them 25 years later using Google Earth. Details were fairly light at that time, but this month’s Vanity Fair has the full story — and it’s amazing!


Saroo used Facebook and MySpace to contact four Indian friends he knew from college. He asked them to ask their parents how fast trains traveled in India in the 1980s. Saroo took the average speed–80 kilometers per hour–and, crunching the numbers, determined that he must have boarded the train roughly 960 kilometers from Calcutta.

With the satellite image of India on his screen, he opened an editing program and began slowly drawing a circle with a radius of roughly 960 kilometers, with Calcutta at its center, creating a perimeter within which to search. Then he realized he could narrow it down even further, eliminating the regions that didn’t speak Hindi and those with cold climates.

He flew over trees and rooftops, buildings and fields, until he came to the next depot, and his eyes fell on a river beside it–a river that flowed over a dam like a waterfall.

Saroo moved his cursor over the streets on-screen: a left here, a right there, until he arrived at the heart of the town–and the satellite image of a fountain, the same fountain where he had scarred his leg climbing over the fence 25 years before.

Check out the full story on Vanity Fair, and watch this short video to see exactly how Saroo used Google Earth to find his home.
To explore the city of Khandwa for yourself, as seen in the video, you can use this KML file to get started.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Brought tears to my eyes…

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