Originally from India, Saroo was adopted by a Tasmanian couple when he was just five. He was separated from his older brother after falling asleep during a train ride and with no way of contacting his family, ended up a beggar on the streets of Calcutta. Fortunately, he was found by an orphanage and given the opportunity to live a better life in Australia, though this did little to extinguish his desire to be reunited with his biological family.
Saroo had quite the task ahead of him. All he had to draw on were memories of his hometown, framed from the perspective of a five-year old, and a photograph of himself as a child. But he was determined — armed with the geographical omnipotence of Google Earth and a bit of maths, Saroo was able to isolate his place of origin:
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 1200km."
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."
With this knowledge, he took a trip to Khandwa and with the help of locals, was reunited with his mother. Sadly, Saroo's brother died a month after they were separated on the train.
We use technology like Google Earth and Maps every day to locate the most mundane of things. When I hear about it being used like this, that's when I truly appreciate the greater benefits of the Information Age.