NYT bestselling Australian-Indian author, Saroo Brierley, found his way back home to India - twenty five years after becoming accidentally separated from his biological mother at age five - thanks to the power of technology and his dogged determination.\n\u201cI went on this journey of trying to find a needle in a haystack,\u201d he said. \u201cI waited until I was 25 and all of a sudden Google Earth came about. I\u2019ve got a photographic memory of my hometown, of the train station, I know the architecture, the landmarks. What was in my memory, I could then put that side by side with what was on Google Earth.\u201d\nBrierley, the author of \u2018A Long Way Home,\u2019 which was the basis for the major motion picture, Lion, featuring Nicole Kidman, told his story of persistence and ingenuity at the recent Juniper Nxtwork 2019 event in Sydney.\nAt age five, Brierley found himself alone at a train station, with his brother missing. That event, kick started a horrid journey that saw Brierley riding \u2018ghost trains\u2019 to nowhere, eventually becoming lost on the streets of Calcutta for weeks - where he almost drowned twice - before reaching the mercy of an adoption agency.\nAs the story goes, he was adopted by an Australian couple, John and Sue Brierley, who took him in, brought him up in Tasmania, and who ultimately supported him on his journey to find his biological mother half-a-world away.\nBrierley reminisced to attendees about the tragic events that altered his life.\n\u201cTwenty-nine years ago I was living in a slum suburb, somewhere in India. And I was only about five years of age and stood just over a metre in height. And the only possessions I had were the t-shirt and shorts I had on, which hadn\u2019t been washed for months and months. I was quite soiled. I hadn\u2019t washed my hair. It was oily. Coming from the slums, we didn\u2019t have access to water."\nHis family consisted of his sister, two older brothers and his Mum. \u201cMy father left us just after my sister was born. It left our family in deprivation and destitute and we went through adversity. That meant my Mum had to go out into the outskirts of my hometown, working as a labourer, hauling cement and bricks.\n\u201cShe assigned me to look after my baby sister, while my brothers went out to train stations, selling toothpaste, stealing eggs from hen farms, stealing coal from trains that would go past our town.\n\u201cMy Mum didn\u2019t come back much, maybe once or twice a week. It made it extremely difficult, but she worked two or three hours out of my hometown.\u201d\nGetting lost\nOn the fateful day Brierley got lost, he had decided to follow his brother to the train station and left the family dwelling.\n\u201cWe boarded the train. It was an hour-and-a-half and I was feeling extremely tired and groggy. We were in this cubicle, this carriage of a train. There was just the sound of the train going past on the railway.\n\u201cThe train came to a halt. My brother grabbed my hand and we stood up. We disembarked off the carriage of the train onto the platform. We walked off and I could see in front of me a park bench and my eyes were glued to it. We went towards it and sat down and almost went to sleep. The last words that I heard from my brother were \u2018Stay here for a second. I\u2019ll be back'\u2019\u2019.\nWhen he woke up, his brother was nowhere to be seen and that started his nightmare. After riding another train, he ended up in Calcutta.\n\u201cSomething happened that I can\u2019t explain. But I ended up not knowing how far I had travelled, absolutely oblivious to it, only to end up in Calcutta. I disembarked off the train and I was submerged with thousands of people.\n\u201cI was pushed to the left, to the right, to the side. I was so short. Finally, I came to a point where I could see some clearance. And I could figure out, where am I? What is this place? Why is the language different? How come nothing feels familiar?\n\u201cI couldn\u2019t communicate well,\u201d he said, explaining he only knew a few words of Hindi, which was different to the language of Calcutta.\n\u201cI was extremely frightened. I was calling my sister\u2019s name. My brother\u2019s name. My mother\u2019s name and just waiting for salvation and someone to help me. Tears were welling up in my eyes. How did I get here? Everything seemed so hazy and murky. I realised I was lost and I fell on my knees.\u201d\nBrierley entered into a state of despair and solitude. \u201cThe amazing thing about human beings is when we fall on our knees, we let our sorrows out, and we gain energy and we pick ourselves back up.\u201d\nLife on the streets\nAfter desperately trying to find his way back home, riding random trains that always brought him back to Calcutta - escaping from unscrupulous men in Calcutta who had ulterior motives - he lived on the streets of Calcutta, constructing makeshift boxes for housing.\n\u201cCalcutta was not a safe place. You couldn't be complacent. There was always danger around the corner. And when danger does come, and confronts you, that\u2019s when you make a choice, a decision to run.\n\u201cAnd so I was quite alert. I was extremely sensitive with my ears - even when I was asleep.\u201d\nEventually, Brierley came to ISSA, the Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption, after being first delivered to the police where he was locked up for two days at the metro police station and then being sent to a youth juvenile prison.\n\u201cYou are amongst thousands of kids, from juvenile delinquents who have lost their legs, to mentally unstable kids, to kids that had committed all sorts of things - and I was in the mix. The government decided that every kid that enters the juvenile prison has the chance to be advertised in Calcutta to see if anyone would claim then.\u201d\nSadly, no one claimed him. \u201cNo one came to my salvation. No one claimed me.\u201d At that point, with a sound mind and body, the government took him to ISSA.\n\u201cI was very fortunate. A lot of kids that go into the prison, don\u2019t get out.\u201d\nTasmania bound\nAs fate would have it, Brierley was given a choice whether to stay at ISSA and continue the search for his family or be adopted by an Australian family based in Hobart, Tasmania.\n\u201cI remember thinking, I\u2019ve looked for my family myself, but I never succeeded, so I can\u2019t see how you [ISSA] would succeed. And this is the brain of a five-year-old thinking this.\n\u201cI said, \u2018I\u2019d like to go to Australia and be with this family because there\u2019s no hope here. I grabbed the bull by the horn. And said, \u2018Let\u2019s take this opportunity.\u2019 Because again I\u2019m giving humanity another chance.\u201d\nBrierley said he wasn\u2019t frightened about making the journey to Australia and had been well informed about his adoptive parents, with pictures provided of the new family, the family car, the layout of the house and pictures of toys.\n\u201cI was really happy about it. I knew what was going on. I wasn\u2019t frightened and it was my choice.\u201d\nHis credits his adoptive parents with saving him. \u201cThe odds of coming out of India were so rare. It was almost like the celestial beings in the universe had all aligned in order to get me out of there, and I feel extremely lucky about that.\u201d\nGoing home\nFor years and years, Brierley conducted searches using the satellite images on Google Earth, and he became quite methodical.\n\u201cI started searching and thinking, \u2018Let\u2019s be a bit more methodical about things.Do you think you\u2019re from the North? Are you from the South? What kind of clothes were the people wearing in your hometown? What was the food? the cultural events? the animals? Was there a monsoon? Was it cold during the night and hot during the day? Was there mountains, hills, what about the trees, the pulses? Was there more meat than fish?\u201d\nLittle telltale signs such as these, along with the power of mapping - and his ability to track how long he was on that initial train, and determine how fast the trains were travelling 20 years ago - helped Brierley find his way home.\n\u201cI was trying to populate information and find what was and wasn\u2019t valuable. And that certainly was the game changer for me.\u201d\nHe was able to track a small railway station that closely matched his childhood recollection of where he had become trapped in an empty carriage; the name of this station was Burhanpur, very close to a phonetic spelling of the name he remembered from his childhood ordeal.\nFinally, after countless searches of satellite images, in 2012, Brierley found his way home - to the town of Khandwa - and was reunited with his Indian mother, sister and surviving brother.\nHis story is one of "hope, determination, and sheer grit," he said.\n"It's the power to soldier on. Make a choice.Take a chance and make a difference," he said, explaining the drive to survive and to ultimately find his way back home.\n"There is always a way home - and I found it."