I went to the movie Lion, last week and loved it. It is the true story of five-year-old Saroo, an Indian boy who gets lost and falls asleep on a train and ends up 1200 miles from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.
Sunny Pawar, as the five year old Saroo is utterly captivating. And of course the grown up Saroo is played by the gorgeous Dev Patel. Take your tissues.
I have been to India and the sight of this tiny chap alone in Calcutta is unbearable and unbelievable if you didn’t know it was true. I highly recommend the movie. As the credits roll you see that 80,000 children are “lost” in India each year. One short scene is really frightening as you see a group of little children huddled together in the underground and a group of men swoop on them with batons and carry them off, the children screaming in terror.
By coincidence and if that wasn’t enough to ruminate about, our book club book this month is called Little Princes and I was hooked pretty much from the first page. Again, this is a true story written by Connor Grennan, a young American who takes a year off to travel but goes to a Nepalese orphanage for three months first to “justify” going. One of the things I loved about Conor was his ability to be truthful about himself and his motives. Conor in many ways was an ordinary bloke, enjoyed dating, socialising, watching sport and drinking beer with his mates and he was off on his OE adventure that didn’t turn out quite the way he planned. I really admire his integrity and persistence.
I so often become aware of things that were happening when I was an adult that I was so unaware of like the decade-long civil war in Nepal (1996-2006) that claimed more than 13,000 lives. I am ashamed to say I was aware vaguely about this but had o idea that thousands of children were taken from their parents, some by the Maoist rebels to fight for them and some by child trafficking rings. This book is testimony to the fact that one person can change lives. The children are incredibly resilient in the face of appalling treatment, starvation and separation from families.
This joyful, heart-wrenching and ultimately hopeful story just enthralled me and I highly recommend it. Conor has set up his own organisation against child trafficking called Next Generation Nepal.
I went to India, Syria and Nepal on my OE at the ripe old age of 23 and like Conor was naïve about other cultures and still am of course, as I didn’t live in these places. I was just a tourist moving through but even that short experience helped me picture the streets of Kathmandu and the poverty evident there.
I have always been interested in stories from India, like God of Small Things, A Fine Balance and my favourite, Midnight’s Children. If you enjoyed these then I think you would enjoy this true story. I read it in one sitting as I really wanted to know what happened. Book club is great for challenging me to read books I may not otherwise have looked at.
Happy viewing and reading, FG