Hollywood movie ‘Lion’, which has been nominated for Oscars, has brought spotlight on Fatima Munshi, a maid in Ganesh Talai locality of Khandwa, whose son Saroo Brierley is the protagonist in the film.
The movie, starring Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame and Nicole Kidman, is based on real life rags to riches story of Munshi’s son, an Indian-born Australian businessman who accidentally got separated from his family in 1987.
Brierley, then five-year-old, could not find his elder brother Guddu who used to sweep trains looking for coins at Burhanpur station, 70km from Khandwa. Left alone, the train took Brierley to Kolkata where a good samaritan got him admitted to an orphanage, which changed his life.
He was later adopted by an Australian couple. Oblivious of his adoption, Munshi spent months trying to locate him and also visited shrines and temples to pray for his return. Brierley returned in 2012 after spending years looking for a station resembling ‘Bara’, the word he remembered, a waterfall and a fountain near it on Google Earth.
While looking for another station, he spotted a bridge, the waterfall where he used to swim, and the fountain on the map listing town as Khandwa. He then contacted Kandwa Facebook page which helped him locate his family in Ganesh Talai, as Munshi’s travail to find her son was well known in this small town.
The reunion with his 60-year-old mother was emotional and the son promised all help, but Fatima’s lifestyle has remained unchanged. Her neighbours said even after 35-year-old Brierley started sending money, Fatima did not stop washing utensils at weddings and other functions.
Fatima, who lives alone and earns ₹2,000 per month, told HT, “Sheru used to send some money after he reunited with me in 2012 but he has stopped sending it now.”
She is, however, happy about her son’s success.