“Lion,” a 2016 Oscar-nominated film, perfectly demonstrates the feeling of loneliness that plagues Third Culture Kids (TCKs), adoptees and adults.
Many Adult TCKs struggle to find a sense of belonging in the culture of the geographical location they reside in, and Saroo, the main character in “Lion,” embodies this struggle.
Background on Lion
At the beginning of the film, Saroo, a five-year-old, journeys thousands of miles across India away from his family and home after an accidental train ride. Saroo struggles to survive on the streets of Kolkata, having to stave off predators while begging for the essentials needed for survival. He eventually gets adopted by an Australian couple who moves him thousands of miles further from his home.
Twenty years after his adoption and relocation to Australia, Saroo struggles with his identity. As an adult TCK, Saroo finds it hard to connect with other Indian natives who live in Australia and Australians because of his cultural fluidity. This is a feeling that many Adult TCKs face.
As the film progresses, Saroo’s attachment and belonging to the Australian culture grow more tenuous. He eventually returns home to India and finds his birth family, and at the end of the film he is finally feeling at “home.”
Adoptees are an under-researched section of Cross-Cultural Kids (CCKs). However, they do often feel the same struggles that other TCKs feel, as demonstrated by Saroo in the film.
Clara Danfield, an adoptee originally from India, has also struggled through many of the feelings that plagued Saroo. Danfield lived at on orphanage in India, much like Saroo, until the age of eight. After years at the orphanage, she was adopted by a couple and was moved to the United States.
“When I first moved here, I barely spoke English. My parents could not understand me, and I could not understand them. Eventually I learned, but I still found it hard to connect with people. No one really understood who I was,” said Danfield.
The adopted experience
She not only struggled with connecting to others in the U.S.A., but she also struggled with the global and cultural shift. The social norms and cues in India are much different than they are in the U.S.A.
“I didn’t know how to greet people, how to walk into people’s homes. I mean, all the basic stuff was so new to me. Everyone always forgets that about kids who are adopted — they must relearn all this stuff. Its really hard,” Danfield said.
Adoptees and TCKs all around the world struggle with belonging in one place. They have known many different cultures and many different “homes.” They often struggle with loneliness and the grief of knowing that they have lost their chance to belong.
For more film analysis through the lens of hidden diversity, check out this article: The Road Home: Film Explores TCK Image.