Man reunites with long-lost mother thanks to Google Earth

An Indian boy who was separated from his family in 1986 has reunited with his mother — thanks to Google Earth's satellite images.

BBC World Service's Robin Banerji tells the heartwarming story.

When Saroo was only 5 years old, he fell asleep in a train station. The little boy was travelling with his brother late at night — they were working as sweepers on a train in India — and he was exhausted. When Saroo woke up, his brother was nowhere to be found.

Saroo got on the next train, assuming his brother was on it. He wasn't. Saroo fell asleep on the train and woke up in Calcutta 14 hours later.

An illiterate 5 year old, he didn't know the name of the town he was from.

"I was absolutely scared. I didn't know where I was. I just started to look for people and ask them questions," Saroo told BBC Magazine.

Saroo had to quickly learn to fend for himself, begging on the streets until an orphanage took him in. He was soon adopted by the Brierleys, a couple from Tasmania.

"I accepted that I was lost and that I could not find my way back home, so I thought it was great that I was going to Australia."

As Saroo got older, his desire to find his birth family grew. Because he didn't know his family's town's name, he started using Google Earth to search for potential matches to his place of origin.

The search was overwhelming — until math came into play.

"To narrow down the search, he calculated the distance the train would have travelled using the speed of Indian trains and the time he was on the train — 14 hours. He eventually came up with a distance of 1,200km," the Telegraph reported.

He soon found the town of Khandwa: it looked like home.

Saroo decided to visit Khanwa, one childhood photograph in hand, hoping to find his mother still there.

While his childhood home was vacant, passersby helped redirect him to his mother's new home.

"She grabbed my hand and took me to her house. She could not say anything to me. I think she was as numb as I was. She had a bit of trouble grasping that her son, after 25 years, had just reappeared like a ghost," Saroo said of their unbelievable reunion.

Saroo soon learned that his brother was found dead just a month after Saroo disappeared. It was a fortune teller, who told Saroo's mother that she would see her son again, who gave the woman "a bit of energy to live on and to wait for that day to come."

Unsurprisingly, producers are interested in bringing Saroo's incredible story to the big screen.

(Reuters Photo)