A Long Way Home

by

Saroo Brierley

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A Long Way Home: 8. Resuming the Search Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Though Saroo loves working with Dad, his relationship with his girlfriend sours and they soon break up. Saroo moves back in with Mum and Dad and is very depressed until an old friend, Byron, invites Saroo to move in with him. Byron often goes out, while Saroo prefers to stay in and begins thinking again about India. Luckily, Byron has broadband internet and Saroo has a new, fast laptop. Saroo reasons that he feels happy enough to resume his search in a low-key way. On nights when Byron is out, Saroo searches for towns or uses Google Earth to check out coastal cities.
Mum and Dad believe that family means a responsibility to continue caring for each other, even when a family member is no longer a child. When Saroo says that he's happy enough to begin his search, this is in part because his family is around to support him and help him regain solid emotional ground.
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Saroo thinks about the information he has about his hometown: Muslims and Hindus lived together, the climate is warm and dry, and there was a railway station, a bridge, and a water tower at the “Berampur” station where he boarded the train. Finally, Saroo decides to trace the train tracks from Howrah Station until he discovers where he began. He consults Amreen about how fast the trains went in the eighties, and with that information, sets himself a thousand-kilometer radius in which to search. The circle is huge.
By devising this very logical system for searching for his hometown, Saroo attempts to divorce his search from chance at all. Remember, his previous experiences in life have taught him that so many events are the product of coincidences or dumb luck, which means he understands that he cannot necessarily trust those coincidences to get him anywhere.
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The first time that Saroo zooms in on Howrah Station, he’s shocked that he once walked barefoot there. He chooses a train line and begins scrolling outwards. It soon becomes clear that progress will be slow: the internet struggles to render the image quickly. However, Saroo feels confident that if he’s thorough, he’ll find what he’s looking for. He begins searching every night before bed. He soon finds a dammed river that looks familiar and a station that looks promising, but the town is surrounded by lakes. Saroo wonders how many stations might look promising but ultimately be wrong.
The simple truth that it's possible for many stations in India to contain the right elements but not be the correct station means that in some ways, Saroo will still have to rely on chance and luck to find his hometown. This description in particular makes it seem as though it would be relatively easy to pass right over his target if things have changed just a little too much to make them readily recognizable.
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In the first few months, Saroo rules out his international friends’ suggestion that he’s from West Bengal. A few months later, in 2010, he begins a relationship with a woman named Lisa. They break up several times before settling into a solid relationship and moving in together. Lisa seems to understand how important the search is for Saroo, though she also recognizes that he’s obsessed. Saroo doesn’t tell many people about his search, especially Mum and Dad. He doesn’t want them to think he’s unhappy with his life they gave him.
Saroo tries to protect Mum and Dad from this search because of how much he cares for them—he desperately wants them to believe that the life he has with them is one that he wants. This fear of telling them also shows that Saroo is well aware that there are still people who would like to think that his family is somehow not "correct" because he's adopted, and he doesn't want his parents to think he's one of them.
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More than a year after the search began, Saroo has worked through most of his circle. He begins looking further out and eventually, searches by state rather than his initial boundary. He searches nightly and Lisa graciously puts up with it, even though Saroo is somewhat distant. Sometimes, she admits that her greatest fear is that Saroo will find what he’s looking for on Google Earth, but not be able to find his family once he gets to India. Saroo can’t respond, as he doesn’t feel that he can consider failure.
Lisa is becoming part of Saroo's family, especially given that she's supporting him in a very familial way by providing him a safe space in which to conduct his search. When Saroo must begin looking outside his boundary, it implies that his personal memories and the information from his friends was likely wrong.
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By the end of 2010, Saroo and Lisa get faster internet, and not long after, he begins concentrating on the central Indian states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. He questions his sanity, but continues to search. Finally, one night in March, he finds it.
It's important to recognize that Saroo's success is entirely contingent on having access to the technology available at the time. It allows him to revisit his memories in a way that no other analog technology could.
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