When you cover red carpets for work, there’s that intense energy and thrilling buzz that comes along with the flashing cameras and star-studded arrivals.
And when I worked at Lion’s Australian premiere last month, it was no different.
I was a trained journalist, placed in a professional environment with a hit of adrenalin having just kicked in, knowing I was about to interview award winning actor Dev Patel and hopefully grab a catchy headline.
Just before Dev arrived, I interviewed Saroo Brierley, the incredibly inspiring and courageous Indian man whom Dev’s Lion character is based on.
“Nice to meet you,” I said with utmost professionalism when shaking Saroo’s hand, before greeting his adoptive parents Sue and John Brierley.
I was on the red carpet to do my job, and they were there answer my questions about the film.
So I asked Saroo what it was like seeing his real-life journey – being adopted by Australians at the age of five, before retracing his Indian origins 20 years later via Google Earth and photographic memory – portrayed on screen.
I asked Saroo what it was like to have a big name like Dev Patel portray him, and even prompted him for details on what the “real Dev” is like.
But after having watched Lion at a special advance screening tonight, I wish I had truly cherished that moment I met Saroo.
Or more so, I wish I had known just how big of a deal it was to meet this human.
The real Sue Brierley, Saroo’s adoptive mother, told me that I would need “plenty of tissues” when watching the film. And she wasn’t wrong.
From 10 minutes in until the closing credits, I consistently shed tears and made very good use of the Kleenex.
When the film finished, the first thing I said was: “I wish I had really cherished that moment I met Saroo… that I hadn’t done the classic ‘Nice to meet you’ line that every journalist does.
But I was doing my job and didn’t know better.
Now I do. And now I want to say to Saroo Brierley right here, without the parameters of a red carpet, and the expectations associated with holding a glossy media pass:
“It WAS so nice to meet you, but it was more than that. I feel truly blessed and honoured to have crossed paths with you.
“Your story has not only inspired me, but thousands of others who have watched the film or read your book. Yet I’m one of those lucky ones who has met you and had the chance to speak to you about your experience.
“I’m communicating this to you not as a journalist trying to get a scoop, but as me, Alicia, off-duty in my daggy clothes, craving hot jalebi just like little Saroo did.
“Your determination to trace your roots with photographic memory, Google Earth and perseverance and patience over all those years, redefines ‘inspiring’ in my eyes.
“I’m looking forward to getting involved with the Lion Heart campaign, supporting organisations on the ground in India who strive to help those over 80,000 lost Indian children every year.
“Thank you for inspiring me to plan my first trip to India sooner than expected. Despite being Indian, I’ve never visited the motherland, and hope to put my LA travel plans on hold till I first make a trip to India to better understand the challenges faced by young locals.
“Thank you for sharing your message Saroo, and I hope you see this and know that you have truly touched the hearts of me and so many others. Here’s to what the future brings, we may even cross paths again.