Rest of Asia

Former Dubai resident reunites with family, 45 years after being presumed dead

Nithin Belle/Pune
Filed on July 29, 2021
Sajjad Tangal (centre) flanked by Mohammed Kunju (to his left) and Abdul Rasheed (to his right) at the family reunion at SEAL on Thursday. Also seen are K.M. Philip (extreme right) and Biju Samuel (extreme left) of SEAL. Supplied Photo

Sajjad Tangal thought to have died in an air crash in Mumbai in 1976.

His voice choked with emotion as he recounted the angst that he and the rest of his family had undergone on multiple occasions since 1976.

Mohammed Kunju, 63, was in his teens when he heard his brother, Sajjad Tangal, now 70, was ‘killed’ in an air crash in Mumbai on an Indian Airlines flight from Dubai in 1976.

But Tangal had survived by a simple twist of fate.

He had rescheduled his travel plans and did not board the ill-fated flight, which crashed after take-off from Mumbai, killing all 95 on board.

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

His family members, including Kunju, believed he was among the passengers on the aircraft.

Kunju, who travelled to Mumbai from Kerala on Thursday, narrated to Khaleej Times over the phone about the pain that the family endured over the past 45 years.

Kunju, his younger brother Abdul Rasheed and a nephew reached Panvel in suburban Mumbai in the evening and met Tangal for the first time in decades in an emotional reunion at the building that housed the Social and Evangelical Association for Love (SEAL), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which has been taking care of the recluse since 2019. This was the 433rd successful reunion that was organised under SEAL's supervision.

“I’m a driver and I’ve worked for several years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Kunju said.

He recalled the traumatic years, when the family realised that Tangal had missed the flight, but was psychologically scarred and did not want to communicate with anyone.

Initially, Kunju came to know of Tangal’s presence in Mumbai in 1982. “I went to the lodge in the city from where he had written to us,” says Kunju.

“But he had checked out and had moved elsewhere. I searched for him all over the city for a fortnight and then returned to Saudi Arabia.”

Two years later, he again returned to Mumbai and spent a month trying to trace Tangal.

The search went on for a few years and even in 1991, he was back in the city looking for his missing elder brother. But after that the family, comprising seven siblings, gave up the quest.

Fortunately, 30 years later, destiny had other ideas.

Earlier in July, one of SEAL’s social workers visited Kerala and traced Tangal’s family in their town. Fathima Beevi, his 91-year-old mother, is overjoyed and eagerly waiting to see her long-lost son’s return home.

“When Tangal planned to go to the (Arabian) Gulf in the early 1970s, there was no passport office in Kerala and he had to go to Madras (now Chennai) for the document,” recalled Kunju.

On the train, he also broke down as the disturbing thought crossed his mind that he would not even be able to recognise his elder brother.

Kunju had returned to Kerala from Saudi Arabia in 2008 and has been working as a school bus driver ever since.

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