A Long Way Home

by

Saroo Brierley

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Kamla is Saroo’s birth mother. She married Saroo’s birth father when she was nineteen, and it was an unconventional marriage: Kamla was Hindu, while her husband was Muslim. They had four children, Guddu, Kallu, Saroo, and Shekila, over twelve years. When Kamla was pregnant with Shekila, her husband took a second wife and effectively abandoned the family. Kamla is then forced to perform hard labor for little money. Saroo loves and admires her when he’s a child; he thinks she’s beautiful and strong. She has customary face tattoos and always wears a red sari, so she’s easy to spot when she returns from work. When both Saroo and Guddu disappear, Kamla is devastated and even considers killing herself and her remaining children, but she manages to make the best of her situation. With only two children she can afford to send Kallu and Shekila to school, and she eventually moves to a nicer house in Ganesh Talai. She never gives up on her hope that Saroo is alive and well. Sometime between Saroo’s disappearance and his return, she converts to Islam and changes her name to Fatima. Though she has the right to file for divorce under Islamic law, she remains married to Saroo’s birth father. The day before Saroo returns, she experiences a vision of him, which reinforces her belief in destiny. Kamla insists that Mum and Dad are Saroo’s parents, as they’re the ones who raised him to be the man he is when she meets him as an adult. With this, she effectively gives Saroo permission to feel that he made the right choice by consenting to his adoption. By the end of the memoir, Saroo is in the process of buying Kamla a home so that she can be comfortable in her old age. She asks that Saroo marry and have children before she dies—she values family and wants to make sure Saroo will have a family of his own to care for him upon her death.

Kamla Quotes in A Long Way Home

The A Long Way Home quotes below are all either spoken by Kamla or refer to Kamla. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of A Long Way Home published in 2013.
2. Getting Lost Quotes

This episode stayed with me as an example of my mother's courage in turning to face down her pursuers, and also of the vulnerability of the poor in India. Really, it was just luck that the crowds backed off.

Related Characters: Saroo Brierley (speaker), Kamla, Saroo’s Birth Father
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
10. Meeting My Mother Quotes

Even at this first meeting, she told me she was grateful to my parents who had raised me in Australia, and that they had the right to call me their son because they had raised me from a child and made me the man I was today. Her only concern for me, she said, was that I should have the very best life I could.

Related Characters: Saroo Brierley (speaker), Kamla (speaker), Mum / Sue Brierley, Dad / John Brierley
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:
12. Reaching Out Quotes

And even though it was exhausting to go over my story again and again with the media, I thought I had a kind of duty to do it, because it might help people—what had happened to me was remarkable, and might offer hope to others who wanted to find their lost family but thought it impossible.

Related Characters: Saroo Brierley (speaker), Mum / Sue Brierley, Kamla
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:

I began to realize that just as my search for my mother had in some ways shaped my life, her faith that I was alive had shaped hers. She couldn't search, but she did the next best thing: she stayed still.

Related Characters: Saroo Brierley (speaker), Kamla
Page Number: 231
Explanation and Analysis:
Epilogue Quotes

I am astonished at the miraculous turns in my story—my mum's vision that led her to intercountry adoption, My Indian mother praying and seeing an image of me the day before we were reunited...It is sometimes difficult not to imagine some forces at work that are beyond my understanding.

Related Characters: Saroo Brierley (speaker), Mum / Sue Brierley, Kamla
Page Number: 273
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire A Long Way Home LitChart as a printable PDF.
A Long Way Home PDF

Kamla Character Timeline in A Long Way Home

The timeline below shows where the character Kamla appears in A Long Way Home. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
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Memory, Technology, and Friendship Theme Icon
...English, and Saroo points to the abandoned house and lists the people who lived there: Kamla, Guddu, Kallu, Shekila. He points to himself and says his name. The woman is silent... (full context)
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Memory, Technology, and Friendship Theme Icon
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...man approaches, and Saroo again recites the names of his family members: his birth mother, Kamla; his brothers, Guddu and Kallu, and his sister, Shekila. In English, the man asks how... (full context)
1. Remembering
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Saroo has a relatively easy time adjusting. Though he misses Kamla, he knows he has to take any opportunities that allow him to survive and thrive.... (full context)
2. Getting Lost
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Saroo vividly remembers caring for his baby sister, Shekila. He's her sole caregiver when Kamla is away, working for days at a time. During the hot months, Saroo's family sits... (full context)
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...father is visiting when he is four years old to see his father’s new baby. Kamla gets Shekila, Saroo, Kallu, and Guddu up and dressed early to take a day-long journey... (full context)
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Later that same morning, Saroo watches his birth father approach and realizes he’s chasing Kamla. She finally spins around to confront him. As they shout at each other, Hindus line... (full context)
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After Saroo’s birth father leaves, Kamla moves her children to the Muslim side of town. Saroo remembers no religious instruction, and... (full context)
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After Shekila’s birth, Kamla goes to work on building sites. She works six days per week for a tiny... (full context)
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Because they live in a Muslim neighborhood, Kamla has Saroo circumcised at age three. He never learns exactly why she has this happen,... (full context)
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...so he begins selling toothbrush kits on train platforms at age ten. Though all of Kamla’s children are known by local police as petty thieves, they often get away with their... (full context)
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...during the day to obtain food or money, and they pool their resources at night. Kamla cooks what she can with the ingredients her children bring home, and Saroo loves her... (full context)
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...sees boys racing after him, but his blanket gets caught on the barbed wire fence. Kamla is furious that Saroo lost his blanket, though she doesn’t beat him like other parents... (full context)
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...the station. One evening when Saroo is five, everyone but Kallu is home for dinner. Kamla goes out afterwards, and Guddu announces that he’s going back to “Berampur.” Saroo, not wanting... (full context)
4. Salvation
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Saroo is perplexed, as Kamla never would’ve thrown a rock. He wonders if this is how people are in the... (full context)
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After a few weeks, Mrs. Sood tells Saroo that since they cannot find Kamla, they’re going to try to find him another family. Part of him had already accepted... (full context)
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...trail, just liked the ones he watched with fascination as a child. He wonders if Kamla saw his vapor trail. (full context)
7. Growing Up
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...first suggestion outright, but he wonders why none of the authorities tried to look for Kamla in any of those places. The other two cities also seem unlikely, as neither seem... (full context)
9. Finding Home
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...home, but he’s unsure of what this might mean for his family. He wonders if Kamla is healthy or even alive, and whether his siblings are okay. He wonders if he’d... (full context)
10. Meeting My Mother
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...nine feet square. Saroo reasons that he couldn’t expect to just waltz in and find Kamla still here, but he feels crushed regardless. A woman comes out of the house next... (full context)
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...about Saroo. A minute later, the man returns and tells Saroo to follow him to Kamla. Unthinking and anxious, Saroo follows until the man stops in front of three women and... (full context)
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Kamla leads Saroo to her house around the corner, muttering with emotion. Saroo can’t say anything.... (full context)
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Several people speak English, so Kamla and Saroo can speak to each other. Saroo offers her a brief rundown of his... (full context)
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The crowd babbles happily and chaotically around Saroo. He and Kamla meet a woman named Cheryl, who is able to translate for them. Saroo tells Kamla... (full context)
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Though Kamla’s new home represents a step up by the standards of Ganesh Talai, it’s also more... (full context)
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Saroo learns later that Kamla had been annoyed that Guddu took Saroo, but it took her a week to become... (full context)
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...for abandoning them. At one point, Cheryl mentions that some of the people gathered in Kamla’s house wonder how Kamla knows for sure that Saroo is her son. Kamla insists she’d... (full context)
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...he goes to bed, he texts Mum and Dad the news, and tells them that Kamla thanks them for raising him. (full context)
11. Reconnection
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Kamla felt so disoriented and disturbed at the time, she considered killing herself and her children.... (full context)
12. Reaching Out
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...don’t have a camera so he cannot see them. He decides he needs to set Kamla up so they can stay in touch, and decides he wants to play a real... (full context)
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Shekila and Kallu join Saroo and Kamla, and Kamla makes her children sit in plastic chairs while she sits on the floor.... (full context)
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Kamla seems to fear that Saroo is still undernourished, so she feeds him as much as... (full context)
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Saroo realizes that Kamla’s faith that he was alive fundamentally shaped her life. She insisted on remaining in Ganesh... (full context)
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Kamla tells Saroo that many families want their daughters to marry Saroo, and he tries to... (full context)
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Kamla also tells Saroo that if he wants to return to India, she’ll work to build... (full context)
13. Returning
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...remains firm in his decision to take the Kolkata Mail. Before he leaves, he visits Kamla one final time to take family photos. It’s emotional to get to say goodbye to... (full context)
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...Saroo. Though she’s in her eighties, she remembers Saroo perfectly. She inquires after Mum and Kamla, and then asks a social worker, Mrs. Medhora, to find Saroo’s file. (full context)
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...good health, it was actually because he was lost. ISSA intended to reunite him with Kamla. (full context)
Epilogue
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The television program 60 Minutes proposes introducing Kamla and Mum on camera as part of a piece on Saroo’s experiences. Saroo wonders if... (full context)
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Saroo explains that he does what he can to help Kamla, including paying her rent and buying food. Now, he has dual citizenship and can buy... (full context)
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...fortuitous twists, turns, and coincidences that led him to the Brierleys and then back to Kamla. He believes everything was meant to happen just as it did. (full context)