Like the plot of ‘Lion’, but with no happy ending for Danish adoptee from India

Mark Madappan Nielsen’s family lived in a village shack. They might not own a television and they could be illiterate. But that won’t stop him searching for them

It’s the last ten minutes of ‘Lion’ – spoiler alert! – an emotional rollercoaster for sure. Dev Patel’s character Saroo has found his old village and traced his way back to the shack he used to call home when he was five years old. Within minutes he is embracing his mother and sister, whom he hasn’t seen since the early 1986.

But imagine if the film had ended differently. Convinced he was in the right place, the adult Saroo could find neither his old home nor his family. As the credits roll, we’re left with the figure of a forlorn man who had pieced together the jigsaw to discover it was a Jackson Pollock.

In the case of Mark Madappan Nielsen, a 45-year-old Dane adopted in Dehli in 1979, this is his reality, reports His search for his home and family continues.

Drugged and abducted
Like Saroo, Nielsen was one of thousands of Indian children adopted from orphanages in the 1970s and 80s. And like Saroo, he was not an orphan.

One day, aged seven, he caught a bus to meet some of his siblings in the local city and got lost. Surviving on the streets, he was drugged, abducted and eventually transported to a Delhi orphanage from where a couple from Copenhagen legally obtained him in 1980, unaware that the paperwork was mostly based on lies.

Nielsen’s upbringing was a happy one, but one day he came across a program for missing children in Denmark and started to question who he was: namely where did he spend the first seven years of his life, and where was his family today, and what were their names.

He decided to move to India to find them.

So near, but yet so far
Nielsen remembers details of the village he grew up in. Located next to a huge river, there were two huge stones on the bank, but when he travelled to Dehli in 2009, these details weren’t helpful.

Furthermore, his adoption paperwork was erroneous and his orphanage had closed down. Eventually, though, he found one of its former workers, who remembered him well and that he had been brought from Coimbatore.

And from there he found a village next to a river … with two huge stones on the bank. Nevertheless, a lot had changed, and he could not find the sugar factory his mother used to work in, let alone any trace of his family.

Relocated and reassimilating
In the meantime, Nielsen has settled down with an Indian woman, relocated to Madurai, India and started a family.

“I have a six-year-old daughter,” he told  “She is teaching me to speak Tamil.”

Finding his original family would complete his journey.

“My wife tells me one day I will find them. We don’t know if they are still alive or not but I at least want to know what happened to them,” he continued.

“There is a big hole in my heart that I want to fill. I will never give up.”