An Indian man whose family believed he died in a plane crash 45 years ago has been reunited with his loved ones.
Thungal, then aged 22, left with plans to work in the Middle East, and took up a job managing events in Adu Dhabi using entertainers from India.
Two years later, an Indian Airlines plane crashed while attempting to land in Mumbai on a domestic flight from Chennai. All of the 95 passengers and crew died after engine failure led to a fire and the pilot lost control of the aircraft.
A group of performers apparently linked to Thungal’s work in the Gulf was onboard. Thungal was reportedly so racked by guilt that he didn’t contact his family after the crash or when he subsequently returned to India in 1982.
His parents and siblings are said to have believed he had died in the crash.
“I didn’t get in touch with the family because I felt like a failure,” Thungal was quoted as saying.
Then in 2019, a friend found him with no money and suffering from poor health, and he was taken to a shelter for the destitute.
Initially, he didn’t mention that he had family in Kerala, but in recent weeks, Thungal explained his backstory and after contact was made with a mosque in Kottayam, plans were made to reunite him with his relatives.
Two of his brothers will meeting him in Mumbai and take him home.
Thungal said: “I want to go home and meet my family members. If people hadn’t looked after me, I would have died without meeting my family again.
“I was meant to make my fortune in the Gulf and didn’t. Then I kept thinking I would make something of myself in Bombay and then contact everyone. But that didn’t happen either. In this way, 45 years passed.”
Pastor KM Philip, who runs the Social and Evangelical Association for Love, which helps reunite families, said: “When I met him [Sajid], he was mentally disturbed and it took him plenty of time to reveal about his family.”
In the 45 years he has been gone, Thungal’s father has died, but his mother Fatima Bibi, 95, his wife Jamila and brothers Aziz and Mohammed Kunju are still alive.
Kunju said: “I had been to pillar to post in search of my brother. I had flown to the UAE to know the whereabouts of my brother.”