Former Dubai resident, presumed dead for 45 years, to reunite with family in India


Sajjad Tangal (centre) will meet his brothers for the first time in decades tomorrow. Photo: Supplied
Sajjad Tangal (centre) will meet his brothers for the first time in decades tomorrow. Photo: Supplied

Pune - Sajjad Tangal was thought to have been killed in an air crash in 1976.

By Nithin Belle

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Published: Sun 25 Jul 2021, 6:19 PM

Last updated: Sun 25 Jul 2021, 8:07 PM

A former Dubai resident, who was given up for dead in an air crash in 1976, is all set to reunite with his family tomorrow.

Sajjad Tangal, who hails from Kollam in Kerala, used to work as a film distributor in the UAE. During his time in the country, he was often involved in organising visits by Malayalam stars for live shows and performances. And it was one such event that eventually led to him being presumed dead for over four decades.

The former expat — who first arrived in Dubai by boat in the early 70s — had organised a dance show by then-famous Malayalam actress and beauty pageant winner Rani Chandra.

Sajjad was scheduled to accompany the star and her troupe back to Kerala, but had to cancel his trip at the last moment to finish some work in Dubai.

Rani and her group proceeded to travel from Dubai to Mumbai, from where they caught an ill-fated Indian Airlines flight on October 12, 1976, in a bid to reach Kerala.

Unfortunately, the Caravelle jet took off but soon developed an engine snag.

It crashed immediately after take-off near the runway and all 95 persons on board — including Rani and some of Sajjad’s friends — were killed in the air disaster.

Speaking to Khaleej Times from a rescue home in Panvel, Navi Mumbai, where he has been staying since 2019, Sajjad, now 70, recalled the events of the tragic disaster that took place nearly 45 years ago. “I was shattered and did not know what to do,” he said.

His family in Kerala was under the impression that he, too, had been killed in the accident.

Sajjad, however, suffered post-traumatic stress and developed other psychological problems in the aftermath of the incident. He soon returned to Bombay, doing odd jobs to make both ends meet.

Although he had made a lot of money in Dubai, he lost most of it in various businesses, which proved to be duds. At one point, he even sold idlis and dosas to sustain himself, but ended up squandering whatever he earned.

For years, Sajjad struggled and did not even want to keep in touch with his parents and extended family members back home.

In 2019, a few friends he had in the city met K.M. Philip, the founder of an non-governmental organisation called Social and Evangelical Association for Love (SEAL), which rescues street urchins and senior citizens and provides them with food, clothing and shelter at a community centre near Panvel. It also tries to reunite the hapless folks with their families.

“He was in a terrible shape, and we had no hope of him becoming normal anytime soon,” Philip told Khaleej Times. “We brought him to our shelter and gradually he began to improve. He gave up his vices, as he consciously abandoned the road to perdition,” he added.

One of the social workers from SEAL visited Kerala recently and managed to trace Sajjad’s family.

“His mother, Fathima Beevi, 91, is waiting for his return. His father, Yunis Kunju, who passed away in 2012, was known for his generosity,” Philip said.

The former expat's mother is said to be overjoyed as she waits anxiously for the return of her prodigal son after 45 years.

On Monday, two of Sajjad’s brothers will visit him at the community centre in Panvel to take him back home the following day.

Life, indeed, has come full circle for Sajjad after he was done in by a simple twist of fate.

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