A Long Way Home

by

Saroo Brierley

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A Long Way Home: Prologue Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Saroo is in shock—he's standing in front of the house where he grew up in a small town in central India. The house is clearly abandoned, and it seems much smaller than Saroo remembers. It being empty was Saroo's worst fear, he says, and one that he's lived with for 25 years. He doesn't know what to do. Even though he has money and a ticket home, he feels just like he did on the railway platform when he was five.
Though Saroo doesn’t offer his age at this point until much later, it’s clear that a great deal of time has passed since he last saw this house—and that a lot has changed since then. In particular, the fact that he feels like he did as a child suggests that he experienced some kind of trauma or abandonment then.
Themes
Memory, Technology, and Friendship Theme Icon
Survival, Poverty, and Childhood Theme Icon
The door of the next house down opens, and a young woman comes out. Saroo notes that he looks Indian, but his Western clothes are too new for him to pass as actually Indian. He also can't speak Hindi, and he tells her so. The woman responds that she speaks a little 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 until Saroo pulls out the page of childhood photographs and shows it to the woman, who manages to say in English that they no longer live here. Again, Saroo feels dizzy.
Again, opening with this scene creates the sense that there’s been lots of change in the last 25 years, but that Saroo has continued to remember Kamla, Guddu, Kallu, and Shekila for all that time. This shows just how intently Saroo hangs onto his memories of the people who, he’ll soon reveal, are his birth family. The fact that Saroo doesn’t speak Hindi shows that even as he kept some memories, he was unable to remember his first language.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Memory, Technology, and Friendship Theme Icon
Saroo understood that it was very likely that this would happen, as poor people often don't get much of a choice where they live. He chooses not to consider whether his mother might be dead. A 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 he can help, and Saroo quickly tells the man his story: he grew up here, got lost as a child, and grew up abroad. The man walks away for a moment and then returns—he’s going to take Saroo to his mother.
This passage makes it clear that Saroo’s family was extremely poor, which makes the fact that he’s coming off as a well-off Westerner more surprising—something happened to fundamentally change Saroo’s circumstances. When the man is able to take Saroo to his mother, it seems miraculous and sets up early on that there are surprising elements of destiny at work in Saroo’s story.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Memory, Technology, and Friendship Theme Icon
Survival, Poverty, and Childhood Theme Icon
Destiny, Chance, and Luck Theme Icon