Saroo Brierley on his incredible life journey that inspired "Lion"

“Lion” is up for six Academy Awards, including nominations for best picture, adapted screenplay and supporting actor for stars Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. But the film wouldn’t have existed without Saroo Brierley.  

The film is based on the Brierley’s incredible story. As a five year old in India, he got lost on a train and it took him thousands of miles from home. Frightened and alone, he survived on the streets until he was adopted by an Australian couple. 

“I think because I was just street smart, you know, slightly, and I used my sort of instincts as well to guide me and listen to myself,” Brierley told “CBS This Morning” Wednesday. “Being in situations like that, you didn’t have time to think. You had to act on impulse really quickly.”

Now 35, Brierley said he still remembers his past “extremely clearly” because of skills he acquired striving alone in the streets.  

“I never went to school. So I sort of had a more visual sort of memory as opposed to auditorial,” Brierley said. “And because I never conversed with anyone -- let alone my sister who couldn’t even string a sentence together -- I think my visual memory is more prominent as opposed to talking. So I think that really helped, in fact.” 


“Yeah, but you got into some very dangerous situations. And I just wonder, at five, how you were able to save your own life,” co-host Gayle King said.

“I think that’s the resilience of me and... the guidance of being sort of, you know, the energy of the universe as well,” Brierley said.

Brierley lived alone on the streets of Calcutta for three weeks, before getting placed into a local orphanage and being adopted by an Australian couple. More than two decades after getting lost, using only his memory and Google Earth, Brierley set out to find his family, seeking answers to a “massive anomaly.”

“How can a child be outed from his nuclear family, be brought up and then all of a sudden taken and put in sort of a zone where he’s unfamiliar with and going through hardship?” Brierley explained. “And then coming to Australia, it just doesn’t seem right. And, you know, the yearning, the wanting, the nostalgia as well of wanting to find out if my family is okay, my sister is okay, the bond between mother and son... that you had to find answers and closure.”

Twenty-five years of separation did not hinder Brierley’s early memories of his family. He said when he reunited with his mother, he recognized her “within seconds.”  

“She used to look like a giant. When I saw her for the first time, she was just so short, and I’m just so tall,” Brierley said. “But her facial structures, that was still there.”

He said his birth mother had always believed she’d be reunited with him one day, as a fortune teller once told her. So she didn’t move. 

“But also it’s I think the astro-projections as well as myself and the telepathic connections that we had, too -- wanted to make sure for her to stay there just in case that I returned not today, tomorrow, or in a year, but hopefully in time,” Brierley said. 

Brierley also recalled the “amazing” moment his adopted mother and birth mother met each other for the first time in 2013. 

“My adoptive mother always wanted to meet my biological mother,” Brierley recalled. “She used to say like on rainy days, it’s like, ‘Saroo, I would really love to meet your biological mother because I can show her what an amazing man that you’ve grown up to be.’”

With his life story now playing out on the big screen, Brierley said he gives “kudos” to the actors, producers and everyone behind the film for an “amazing job.”