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Google Earth triumphs!

To use the true story of Saroo Munshi Khan to think about persistence and the place of family (SEAL theme: Persistence).

by Ronni Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To use the true story of Saroo Munshi Khan to think about persistence and the place of family (SEAL theme: Persistence).

Preparation and materials

  • The story is based on a feature in the magazine Vanity Fair, November 2012.
  • You need a reader to tell Saroo’s story.
  • This assembly may stir up questions for children who have been adopted or are in care.

Assembly

  1. Leader  If you knew that you had been adopted as a child, how far would you be prepared to go to find your birth family? Listen to this true story.
  2. Reader  I was born in India, and my family were very poor. So poor that we didn’t go to school – my elder brothers, Guddu and Kullu, both worked to support our mum, my kid sister Shekila and me.

    Leader  Guddu spent his days scavenging on moving trains. He’d get on a train and he’d search it for any scraps of food that he could share, or things that passengers had left behind and he could sell. Sometimes he found coins! But because the trains often travelled vast distances, he would be gone for days on end.

    Reader  One day, when I was five years old, Guddu took me with him. We jumped on a local train, which had a hen coop on board. We stuffed those eggs up our shirts, but then security saw us, and we became separated. Although I couldn’t read or write, I could remember my way home, and I crossed the city alone, with the eggs that hadn’t broken.

    I began to travel further from home with Guddu.

    One evening, we went to the station to see what we could find. We travelled for two hours, and then it was night, so we got on the train home, and I fell asleep.

    Next day, when I woke up, the train was still travelling. Guddu was nowhere around. I was alone – with no money, no food, and no idea where the train was going, or even the name of the town that I lived in. I was five years old and totally lost.

    Leader  Saroo eventually found himself in the vast city of Calcutta. For weeks he travelled in and out of the city, hoping to find his way home but he didn’t succeed. Eventually, he found himself at a children’s centre, in the care of the Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption. 

    In the orphanage, Saroo was given clean clothes and taught how to use a knife and fork. Eventually, he was adopted by John and Sue Brierley, a couple who lived in Tasmania, Australia. They gave him a loving home and cared deeply for him. He went to university and began to work for his parents’ website company.

    Reader  Yet I knew that somewhere I had another family, my birth family. So I decided to find them.

    Leader  India is a vast country, and Saroo didn’t even know the name of his home town. But he did know roughly how long the train had taken to get to Calcutta. And so, using ‘Google Earth’ pictures, he began to sweep round the circumference of the train journeys, looking at features of different towns.

    Reader  And then I saw it. The river with a waterfall, the train sidings, the bridge and industrial tank – they were telling me ‘home’. I knew that was it. I found videos on YouTube and then a Facebook group from the town.

    Leader 
    At last, 25 years after he had left, Saroo landed back in India. He travelled to the town, and then ran to his old home. But his mother wasn’t there.

    Reader  I met an elderly man, and he knew my mother! She had become a Muslim and changed her name, and moved house. I could barely speak my birth language, but somehow he had understood who I was looking for!

    Leader  The man took Saroo to a house nearby. An elderly woman looked up, saw Saroo, and gathered him into her arms, weeping.

    Saroo was reintroduced to his birth family three years after he began searching.

Time for reflection

What do you value the most?

Friends? Family? Your new phone? Your place in school?

How much do you value your family? Enough to look for them for three years?

Prayer

Lord God,
thank you for families –
birth families
adopted families
foster families
step families –
all the people who care for us, and who we love.
Help us always to be grateful
for the people who love us and care for us.
Amen.

Hymn

‘He who would valiant be’ (Come and Praise, 44)

Publication date: January 2013   (Vol.15 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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