A Long Way Home Questions

Saroo BrierelyA Long Way Home: A Memoir by Saroo Brierley

Questions for Prologue to Chapter 3

Prologue

“I’m obviously an outsider, a foreigner.”

  1. What made the neighbors in the Indian village see Saroo as a foreigner?
  2. Why did Saroo speak so little Hindi?

Discussion: In what language do you think/speak most? If you speak another language, do you ever feel as if your first language is diminishing? When have you been looked upon as “a foreigner” because of the way you looked or dressed?

Chapter 1—Remembering  

 “I was upset that I had forgotten the way to the school near my Indian home..”

  1. Why was it so important for Saroo to remember things about his Indian village and life?
  2. When did he think about these memories?

Discussion: What is your earliest childhood memory? What is a memory of your native country you want to hold onto forever?

Chapter 2—Getting Lost

“My mother was very beautiful, slender, with long, lustrous hair—I remember her as the loveliest woman in the world.”

  1. What did Saroo’s mother do to keep the family together?
  2. What episode stayed with him as an example of his mother’s courage?

Discussion: What are the sacrifices your mother/father made for you?  What were their lives like when you were growing up?

“I remember feeling hungry most of the time.”

  1. How did Soroo deal with hunger as a child in India?
  2. What did his sister, Shekila, do to appease her constant hunger pangs?

Discussion: Were there limitations on the foods your family ate? How did your family’s meal choices compare with meals your friends or extended family ate?

“I was just one more poor kid crying something out, too small and timid to make anyone stop and listen.”

  1. Why didn’t people in the train station stop and help Saroo?
  2. Why did Saroo steer clear of policemen?

Discussion: Did you or someone in your family ever get lost? What is your most frightening childhood memory?

Chapter 3 – Survival

 “In that moment, at five years old, I made a conscious decision to pull myself together and do my best to survive.”

  1. What did the homeless man do to Saroo to become his “guardian angel”?
  2. What dangers did Saroo encounter when he began to explore a few of the surrounding streets?

Discussion: What areas in your neighborhood were off limits to you as a child?

“For the first time, I felt relatively safe.”

  1. How did Saroo feel among the holy men and how did they treat him?
  2. Why did Saroo not hesitate to go with the railway man?

Discussion: When did your “gut instinct” about trusting or not trusting someone or a situation turn out to be right?

Chapter 4 to Chapter 6

Chapter 4 – Salvation

 “But the ease with which the woman had turned her back on me was the same as the ease with which she had welcomed me into her house.”

  1. How did Saroo become involved with this woman?
  2. Why did she throw a rock at Saroo?

DISCUSSION: In what situation did you experience someone “turning on you” in an abrupt and surprising manner?

When have you been the victim of an adult behaving in an inappropriate manner with you when you were a child?

“I started to feel like I was one of the luckier ones. I was malnourished but not sickly, whereas I saw children with no legs or arms and some with no limbs at all.”

  1. What, besides being able bodied, made Saroo feel like a lucky child in Liluah, the juvenile detention center?
  2. What did he do to learn to survive in this place?

DISCUSSION: When in your life have you felt that despite your misfortune, you were actually lucky?

“Getting used to the idea of living with a new family in a foreign land was an overwhelming experience.”

  • What did Saroo receive to help him visualize this idea?
  • What did Saroo know if he didn’t accept this opportunity?

DISCUSSION: What opportunity did you have to live in a foreign land and how did you feel about the idea?

Chapter 5 – A New Life

“The idea of having possessions took some getting used to.”

“Another thing that took some getting used to was the abundance of things to eat.”

  1. Why was the idea of having possessions difficult for Saroo to get used to?
  2. Why would an abundance of things to eat be overwhelming to Saroo?

DISCUSSION: How have your thoughts about possessions changed from when you were a child? What do you think about the way many people in the United States view possessions?  Why does an abundance of choices seem to make things more difficult?

“One aspect of life in Australia that immediately appealed to me was experiencing nature in the outdoors.”

  1. How was Saroo’s experience with nature in India different from his experience with nature in Australia?
  2. Why did these experiences in nature help to build his relationship with his parents?

DISCUSSION: How do you feel when you are able to spend time in nature?  What does it do to your mood? Where is your favorite (natural) place to go?

“I don’t remember any racism at school. Mum, however, tells me there were some things said that I didn’t understand properly.”

  1. Why do you think did Saroo not remember experiencing racism at school?
  2. What were some examples of racism his parents remember that Saroo didn’t understand?

DISCUSSION: Have you or your children experienced racism in the United States? How do you react when you hear racist comments from others?

“But Mantosh and I were very different, partly because of the natural differences between people, but also because of our different experiences in India.”

  1. What made Mantosh’s experience in India different than that of Saroo’s?
  2. How did Saroo react to having Mantosh living with him?

DISCUSSION: Do you have a sister or brother that got more attention from your mother or father?  How did you react to that sibling? Do you think your parents favored one child more than the others in your family?

Chapter 6 – My Mum’s Journey

“My mum grew up quickly and managed to lift herself out of her difficult circumstances.”

  1. What did Saroo’s mum do to lift herself out of her difficult home life?
  2. Because she went through hard times, what different priority did she have from other women she knew?

DICUSSION: How difficult were your parents’ lives compared to the life you have had?  How did their upbringing affect their temperament?  How did their behavior influence you?

“When she was about twelve years old, the pressures from her family’s issues led her to something like a breakdown, during which she had what she can only describe as a ‘vision.’”

  1. What was the vision Saroo’s mom had?
  2. What did Saroo’s mum’s meeting with Maree have to do with her vision?

DISCUSSION: Have you or someone in your family had a vision of the future that came true? How can imagery and dreams be powerful motivators?

“Mum believes that helping children who are in harsh circumstances in other countries—through sponsorship or adoption—is something more Australians should think about doing.”

  1. Why does Saroo feel impossibly lucky, even blessed because of his mum’s story?
  2. Why Saroo say she is an inspiration to him and Mantosh?

DISCUSSION: What kinds of incentives should there be for people who want to adopt children from other countries? What are the benefits of adopting a child?  Do you know someone who adopted children who had a positive experience?

 Chapters 7 to 9

Chapter 7 – Growing Up

“Eventually I came up against the limit of my parents’ tolerance.”

  1. What was the ultimatum from Saroo’s parents and what was his response?
  2. What made Saroo decide to get a degree in hospitality and where did he go to school?

DISCUSSION: When did you decide to get serious about school or at work and who influenced your decision?

 What career path did you choose to follow and you eventually abandoned? Why?

 “It was with this group of people, at the age of twenty-six, I began for the first time to generally explore being Indian.”

  1. What made the story Saroo told this group of students a completely different experience for him?
  2. What two things happened as a result of these conversations?

DISCUSSION: What part of your past culture are you able to keep present while you live in the United States and how do you this?

“I could close my eyes and clearly see the train station in “Berampur” where I climbed aboard the train.

  1. What details did Saroo remember about this train station?
  2. Why didn’t maps help him find this village?

DISCUSSION: When you close your eyes and think about your native city what prominent buildings or places do you see?  How would you direct someone to get there without using GPS?  What landmarks stand out in your mind?

Chapter 8 – Resuming the Search

“If family has been the most important thing in my life, friends have not been far behind.”

  1. Who was Byron and what kindness did he show Saroo?
  2. When Byron wasn’t home, what would Saroo often do?

DISCUSSION: What friend in your past helped you work towards a goal?  In what ways did this friend help you?

“But rather than being frustrated and impatient, I found I had enormous confidence that I would find what I was looking for as long as I was thorough.”

  1. What did Saroo do each night to keep track of his progress?
  2. What did Byron do to make sure Saroo didn’t become an Internet recluse?

DISCUSSION: Is there something in your family’s past that you would like to research?  Who would be able to help you?  What tools on the Internet would you use?

“I didn’t tell many people what I was doing right away.”

  1. Why didn’t Saroo tell his parents about his search?
  2. What did Saroo reason about his search?

DISCUSSION: Was there ever something happening in your life that you kept quiet about at first?  If so, why?

Chapter  9 – Finding Home

“Lisa was, of course, always in on my search and my hopes for it, but telling Dad made the discovery, and the need to do something about it, a reality.”

  1. Why did Saroo tell his Dad about his search results before his mom?
  2. What did Saroo wonder about his parents’ fears?

DISCUSSION: What idea or plan have you had that became a reality after you told someone about it? Who did you tell, and what was the result?

“And after all my careful planning and methodical efforts, I found it by accident.”

  1. Why did Saroo feel deflated for telling everyone too early?
  2. What was the heart-stopping answer that Saroo received?

DISCUSSION: What was something you were searching for that you found by accident? How did you find it?

“I was so excited to have succeeded that it was hard to think about anything else.”

  1. What thoughts did Saroo try to convince himself of about his Indian family?
  2. What was the only way to answer the questions Saroo had about his Indian village?

DISCUSSION: When was a time in your life when every morning you woke up thinking about a problem you needed to solve? How did you resolve this issue?

 Chapters 10 to 13

Chapter 10 – Meeting my Mother

“As the taxi crawled through the streets of Khandwa, I tested them against my memory.”

  1. How did the buildings look to Saroo? What came flooding back to him?
  2. What was it that Saroo noticed that made a difference in the way his town looked?

DISCUSSION: As an adult, have you have returned to your native city or a place you lived for a while when you were young? What things changed? How did you feel about the changes you saw?

“Despite the years, I knew the fine bone structure of her face the instant I looked back at her, and in that moment she seemed to know me, too.”

  1. How did Saroo’s mother pronounce his name? Why did he feel stunned upon hearing his mother say it?
  2. What did Saroo realize later about how close he had been to his mother’s house when he first entered Ganesh Talai?

DISCUSSION: Have you been away from close family members for a length of time and found that when you saw them they had changed?  What was different?  What was the same?  How did you feel?

“I had one final pressing question: where was Guddu?”

      5. What had happened to Guddu that night Saroo was lost? What did his mother think     had happened?

6. Why was Saroo so upset about not being able to visit Guddu’s grave? Why wouldn’t his family understand?

DISCUSSION: When were you away from your family when a family member had taken ill or died?  What did you do?  How did you come to terms with your feelings?

Chapter 11 – Reconnection

“My family inevitably asked me about my wife and kids.  It surprised them that I didn’t have any.”

  1. Why were Saroo’s Indian family surprised that he was single and had no children?
  2.  Why was Saroo surprised by the media interest in his story?

DISCUSSION: After you had been away from your family for some time, what information about you surprised them when you returned to visit?

“The things I learned that day, and in the couple of days that followed, helped me to fill in some of the gaps in the picture of my early life.”

3. What did Saroo find out about his mother’s family?

4. Why did Saroo rarely see his father when he was a child living in India?

DISCUSSION: What information about your family did you learn as an adult?  How did the information clarify some of the confusing thoughts you had as a child?

Chapter 12 – Reaching Out

 “I was heading to Kwanda in time for the end of Diwali, the Hindu ‘Festival of Lights.’”

       1. What is Diwali?

2. What traditions are observed during Diwali?

DISCUSSION: What is a holiday that is observed with a great celebration in your native country?  How did your family observe this holiday when you were a child?

“I had been trying to learn Hindi before I returned, and I’d made some progress, but once I was in any sort of conversation, I was all at sea.”

  1. Why did talking with his relatives seem like slow work?
  2. Why was Swarnima upset with Saroo?

DISCUSSION: What do you remember about learning a second language and trying to participate in conversations? What misunderstandings do you recall because you were unable to grasp what was being said?

“I’ve experienced so many coincidences that I’ve just learned to accept them – even to be grateful for them.

  1. How did Saroo’s thoughts about his siblings, Kallu and Shekilia, mirror their thoughts about him when they were apart?
  2. What image did Saroo’s mother see when she was praying? What happened soon after that?

DISCUSSION: Have you ever had such deep feelings for someone that made you believed that your thoughts created a strong emotional bond? What were some of the coincidences that occurred because of these feelings and thoughts?

 Chapter 13 – Returning

“There was one more thing I felt I had to do before I could put to rest some of the ghosts of my past.”

  1. What did Saroo remember about his time on the train as a terrified five year old?
  2. What long-held assumption of Saroo’s about that night on the train was challenged?

DISCUSSION: What is a strong childhood memory you have held onto that you have played over and over again in your mind? Who has helped you retain some of the details of this story?

“There were no luxury carriages on this train, or staff in starched white uniforms with gold buttons offering gin and tonics on silver trays.”

  1. What were the accommodations like for Saroo in the first class compartment he booked on the Kolkata Mail?
  2. When Saroo was a child, who traveled by train? Why?

DISCUSSION: What train trip have you taken, either as a child or an adult, that made a strong impression on you?  Where did you start from and where did you go?

“Mrs. Sood’s eyes widened when I walked in and introduced myself.”

  1. What did Mrs. Sood remember about Saroo? How did Saroo describe Mrs. Sood?
  2. What information in Saroo’s adoption file clarified how he came to be adopted by the Brierleys?

DISCUSSION: Who is someone from your childhood (a teacher, priest, nun, or other mentor) you sought out after being away from your native country?  What happened during that reunion?

EPILOGUE

“The moment when my two mothers met for the first time was an incredible milestone.”

  1. What did Saroo’s mum admire about Kamla (his birth mother)?
  2. What is Saroo doing to help Saroj Sood, the director of Nava Jeevan orphanage?

 

DISCUSSION: Who are the women who most influenced your life? What do you admire about them?  How do you strive to be more like them?

 

“But my experiences have undoubtedly shaped who I am today, providing me with an unshakable faith in the importance of family—however it is formed—and a belief in the goodness of people and the importance of grasping opportunities as they are presented.”

 3. How does Saroo believe that the lives of his Indian and Australian families have benefited from his experience?

4. What are the miraculous turns in Saroo’s search that astonish him?

DISCUSSION: What are some miraculous turning points in your life that led you to be the person you are today?  Why do you think these events occurred? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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