Indian man, presumed dead for 45 years in UAE, to be reunited with kin

Sajjad Thangal, who hails from Kollam in Kerala, has been working in film distributor in the United Arab Emirates.

Mumbai: It was October 12, 1976, Sajjad Thangal was on an Indian Airlines flight from Abu Dhabi to Madras when it crashed, killing 95 people. His family and friends had assumed he was dead as they did not find his name on the list of those who survived. But, fate had other plans.

Now a 70-year-old, Sajjad Thangal is all set to be reunited with his family after four and a half decades, thanks to a social worker.

Thangal, who hails from Kollam in Kerala, was working in the film distribution sector in the United Arab Emirates. During his time in the country, he was often involved in organizing visits of Malayalam stars for live shows and performances. It was one such event that eventually led to his presumed death for more than four decades.

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“In October 1976, South Indian actress Rani Chandra and others had gone to UAE for one such event. While flying back from Abu Dhabi to Madras, via Bombay, Thangal decided not to go with the troupe, and escaped the crash, while all of the troupe, including Chandra, died,” Khaleej Times quoted the founder of Social and Evangelical Association for Love (SEAL) ashram, Pastor K M Philip, who gave shelter to the man.

Thangal suffered from PTSD and related psychological issues after the plane crash, in which his friend Sudhakaran also died, Khaleej Times reported.

Sajjad started doing odd jobs in Mumbai, such as filling out visa and passport forms for others, and took on a catering job to make ends meet.

“In 2019, he was admitted to our shelter as a very frail old, sick man,” Philip said.

A social worker from SEAL recently visited Kerala and was able to trace Sajjad’s family.

“His mother, Fathima Beevi, 91, is waiting for his return. His father Yunus Kunju, who died in 2012, helped several people in Kerala; so we were praying that his good deeds will help us find our lost son,” Philip added.

Thangal has three brothers and four sisters; His family had earlier checked whether his name was on the list of victims of the accident. When they couldn’t find him, they hoped he’d call them one day.

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