Long-lost boy finds his mother thanks to Google Earth

An Indian boy who lost his mother in 1986 has tracked her down using Google's satellite imaging software.

Here's a heartwarming story about how technology can bring people together. An Indian boy named Saroo became separated from his mother back in 1986, but was able to track her down using Google Earth, the BBC reports.

Saroo was only five years old when he was separated from his family in 1986. He fell asleep at a train station and when he woke, his brother, who he had been with, was nowhere to be seen. The exhausted Saroo boarded a train, believing his brother to be on board, and fell asleep again. When the five-year-old woke, 14 hours later, he was alone in Calcutta, India's third biggest city.

"I was absolutely scared," Saroo said. "I didn't know where I was. I just started to look for people and ask them questions."

He learned to fend for himself, becoming a beggar, and was eventually taken in by an orphanage. A couple from Tasmania adopted him, and Saroo settled into his new home. But as he grew up his urge to find his birth family became stronger. The problem? He didn't know the name of his home town.

Saroo started using Google Earth to try and jog his memory. "It was just like being Superman," he said. "You are able to go over and take a photo mentally and ask, 'Does this match?' And when you say, 'No', you keep on going and going and going."

He came up with a way to narrow down his search: he multiplied how long he was on the train by the speed he would've been travelling, and came up with a rough distance. Then he drew a circle on the map around Calcutta, and soon found the place he was looking for: Khandwa.

"When I found it, I zoomed down and bang, it just came up," he said. "I navigated it all the way from the waterfall where I used to play."

When he went searching, armed with a photo of himself aged five, he found that his family had moved. Neighbours helped out, and one said he could take Saroo to his mother. "I just felt numb and thought, 'Am I hearing what I think I am hearing?'" When he saw his mother, he didn't recognise her at first.

"The last time I saw her she was 34 years old and a pretty lady, I had forgotten that age would get the better of her. But the facial structure was still there and I recognised her and I said, 'Yes, you are my mother.'

"She grabbed my hand and took me to her house. She could not say anything to me. I think she was as numb as I was. She had a bit of trouble grasping that her son, after 25 years, had just reappeared like a ghost."

Sadly there was bad news concerning Saroo's brother: a month after he went missing, his brother was found dead on the railway track.

For years Saroo went to bed wondering if he would ever see his mother again. He feels incredibly lucky to have found her, and the two have stayed in touch.

"It has taken the weight off my shoulders," he said. "I sleep a lot better now."

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    Joe has been writing about consumer tech for nearly seven years now, but his liking for all things shiny goes back to the Gameboy he received aged eight (and that he still plays on at family gatherings, much to the annoyance of his parents). His pride and joy is an Infocus projector, whose 80-inch picture elevates movie nights to a whole new level.

     

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