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A long road home for lost Indian boy

It took 25 years for Mother, son to find each other

By Kristen Gelineau And Ravi Nessman

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, June 9 2012 11:20 p.m. MDT

It was a needle in a haystack, and he knew it. Still, his hunt dragged on for years. His girlfriend, Lisa Williams, watched him hunch over his computer night after night, scrolling and searching. She wondered if this ritual would ever stop. If Saroo would ever stop.

In Ganesh Talai, Fatima refused to stop as well.

She had never touched a computer, heard of Google or seen an airplane up close. But for a quarter century, she remained a regular visitor to fortunetellers.

This time, she brought some rice to a Sufi mystic. He scattered it on the floor and stared hard at the grains to find her destiny.

Your Saroo, he said, is coming home. He will be back in 40 days.

Saroo's eyes drifted across an image of yet another train station and froze. The walkover bridge, the water tank — exactly as he remembered. He scrolled further. The waterfall where he used to swim. A familiar tunnel. The fountain.

His heart was pounding. He pressed a hand to his forehead.

The map listed the town as "Khandwa." He plugged the name into Facebook. Bam — a group called "'Khandwa' My Home Town."

On March 31, 2011, he wrote:

"can anyone help me, i think im from Khandwa. i havent seen or been back to the place for 24 years. Just wandering if there is a big fountain near the Cinema?"

The administrator's response was vague. On April 3, 2011, Saroo tried again:

"Can anyone tell me, the name of the town or suburb on the top right hand side of Khandwa? I think it starts with G..."

The adminstrator answered the next day: "Ganesh Talai."

Ganesh Talai. Home.

He raced into the bedroom, waking Williams with shouts of victory. He told his adoptive parents. Everyone was excited, but cautious. "There's a lot of water fountains in India," Saroo's mother told him.

But he knew. And he knew he had to find out what had happened to his family. To Guddu. To his mother. He knew he had to go back.

But what was he going back to?

TO BE CONTINUED

This story was reported by Nessman from Khandwa, India, and Gelineau from Sydney, Australia. It is based on multiple interviews with Saroo Brierley, his girlfriend Lisa Williams, mother Fatima Munshi, sister Shakila Khan, a representative of the Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption, photographs of Saroo and Fatima's reunion, and the reporters' own observations from watching and listening to them. Quotes from the "'Khandwa' My Home Town" Facebook site appear as they were written.

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