The movie Lion was the first step on the way to the reunion of two people, Philip Sais, now 20, and the woman who escorted him from India when he was 19 months old. He was going to join his new adoptive family in the USA. Two decades after her escort journey, Char Woodward watched Lion at the cinema and afterwards said to her husband, “I have to find Phillip. I have to make sure he’s okay.”
So that’s how Philip received a mysterious message on Facebook saying ‘Phillip … you have grown up to be such a lovely young man, you know, since I saw you at 19 months old.’
The first thing he did was to call his adoptive mother.“Mom,” he said when she picked up, “who was the person who brought me from India?” Although Char was still in touch with Philip’s adoptive mother, she wanted to reach out to the young man directly. “Facebook, man!” Phillip laughs. “I didn’t know the person who had brought me over. You know, I never really inquired about it until Char reached out to me, which was really cool.”
Almost two decades had passed since Char last saw the toddler she had carried in her arms from Pune, India to Ozark, Arkansas where she delivered him safely to his adoptive family. Char worked for Holt International, the international adoption and child welfare organisation, but only once did she act as an escort. It left a lasting impression on her and she never forgot the small boy she escorted around the world. “I have a photo album that I look at.”
After their reunion, both were keen to stay in contact. “This is definitely a connection that not many other people have, and so I’m definitely gonna’ keep it,” Phillip said.
“I feel like we’re related,” said Char.
“Even if it’s just like calling or just like texting once or twice a month, I want to keep this,” Phillip says. “It’s special… And I really wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Lion is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley, told in his book A Long Way Home. In 1986, five year old Saroo lives in Khandwa, India, with his mother, brother Guddu and younger sister. One day when Guddu and Saroo steal coal from freight trains to pay for food, Saroo takes a nap. When he wakes, Guddu is gone. Saroo waits for him to return, when he doesn’t he boards a train to find him.
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