A Long Way Home

by

Saroo Brierley

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A Long Way Home: 11. Reconnection Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kallu picks Saroo up the next morning and takes him back to Kamla’s house. There, Saroo gets to meet Kallu’s wife, son, and daughter. Saroo is delighted to meet his niece and nephew, and they all happily and silently have tea until the crowds, Cheryl, and other translators arrive. Shekila soon arrives with her sons and husband. They’re all shocked that Saroo isn’t married with children. Though they seem happy that he has a girlfriend, Saroo questions whether or not Kamla understands the concept.
Lisa's existence as a girlfriend rather than as a wife again illustrates that Saroo is very Australian and isn't particularly Indian in his day-to-day life. His Indian family's shock and awe about Saroo not being married shows how important these official, legal familial relationships are to this part of Indian culture.
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On the second day of Saroo’s visit, the local media arrive, and then the national media. Saroo tells his story over and over again, and he’s genuinely surprised by the interest. Though it’s exhausting, Saroo thinks it’s wonderful that people are so excited that just one of India’s many lost children found his way home. Eventually, the gathered people start a public celebration with music and dancing. Saroo tells the reader that miracles do happen. He and his family cry a lot, both of happiness and sadness.
Saroo's surprise suggests that for him, his story still feels very personal and not necessarily something applicable on a larger scale. Essentially, he doesn't yet understand how he can use his story to perform a kindness for others; at this point, finding his family is still just a kindness he can give to himself.
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Saroo picks up a piece of charcoal and shows it to Shekila, who laughs. Saroo sees this as proof of how far the rest of his family have come: with Guddu and Saroo gone, Kamla had been able to afford to send Shekila and Kallu to school. Shekila is now a schoolteacher who can speak and write both Hindi and Urdu, while Kallu is now a factory manager and a school bus driver. Saroo thinks it’s bittersweet that his and Guddu’s disappearance is what allowed the rest of the family to lift themselves out of poverty.
Here, Saroo links large families to poverty. Though he certainly felt loved and cared for by his family, it wasn't until the family became much smaller that any member of it was able to experience anything beyond love and care. Kamla's decision to make the best of her situation by sending Shekila and Kallu to school shows that she, like Saroo, takes opportunities when they come.
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Life hasn’t been easy for Kallu, however. Following Guddu’s death, he was shouldered with the burden of being the only man in the family. He cut his schooling short to learn to drive, and the pain of Saroo and Guddu’s losses eventually caused him to move to Burhanpur. Saroo’s reappearance affects him deeply, and Shekila also struggles with what happened—though she sends her sons to school, she lives with the fear that they won’t come back.
The fears and emotional turmoil that both Kallu and Shekila experience show that their family being ripped apart negatively affected everyone, not just Saroo. It also seems as though Kallu and Shekila have overwhelmingly experienced the most struggle regarding what happened, which is likely a result of their youth, poverty, and lack of information about the situation.
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Over the next few days, Saroo learns a great deal about his family. He learns that he was born Sheru, which is Hindu for “lion.” He learns that Kamla’s family is of a warrior caste, while his birth father was a building contractor. Kamla explains that when she was pregnant with Shekila, Saroo’s birth father took another wife (which he could do as a Muslim) and announced that he was leaving Kamla for his new wife. Though she was angry, Kamla remained married to her husband, even though she could’ve sought a divorce under Islamic law.
Kamla remains married to Saroo's birth father even though she doesn't have to be, complicating Saroo's understanding of how "good" families work. Kamla remains married because she places a great deal of importance on honoring her commitments to her family, even when the family situation itself leaves a lot to be desired.
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Kamla felt so disoriented and disturbed at the time, she considered killing herself and her children. She decided to move to the Muslim part of Ganesh Talai, as the Muslim community was more accepting of her and the neighborhood was slightly more prosperous. She formally converted to Islam after Saroo disappeared. Saroo begins to consider seeking out his birth father, feeling as though his father is part of his past even though he saw him so little. He recognizes that he’ll need Kamla, Shekila, and Kallu’s blessing to do so, but he doesn’t raise the subject.
Kamla's explanation confirms Saroo's earlier musings that the Muslim neighborhood represented a sense of belonging and community that Kamla didn't have in her Hindu community, which likely explains why she had Kallu and Saroo circumcised (since doing so likely made her seem more entrenched in the community’s culture and beliefs).
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Saroo begins to wonder about the ways that he and everyone else are using the word “home.” He’s not sure where exactly his home is. His adoption meant that he grew up a very different person than who he might have been had he grown up in India, and he now thinks of himself as Australian. However, finding his Indian family and returning to Khandwa also feels like coming home. Because of this, Saroo feels very emotional about returning to Hobart. He promises his family that he’ll return, knowing that his journey to figure out who he is is far from over.
Though Saroo understands that finding his birth family means that things will necessarily need to change somewhat for him, his firm belief that he's still Australian points to the strong closeness he still feels with his adoptive family. Essentially, though it's still confusing for him, this lays the groundwork for accepting that his family is simply larger and more varied now.
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