Man presumed dead in 1976 plane crash, returns home after 45 years
: A 70-year-old man presumed dead after the Indian Airlines plane crashed in Mumbai in 1976 returned home in Kollam on Saturday after 45 years.
It is a sweet homecoming for Sajjad Thangal when he returned home in the evening. His 91-year-old mother was waiting with sweets, and both hugged and cried for a while as they lost words. His village was all decked up to receive him and many local leaders also graced the occasion.
Thangal’s life turned upside down in 1976 after the plane crash in Mumbai, which claimed 95 lives, including famous south Indian actress Rani Chandra. Quite active in social circles those days, he used to conduct cultural programmes in Gulf countries, and Chandra and her troupe were invited to one of such programmes in Abu Dhabi that year.
“He was planning to return with the troupe from Abu Dhabi on October 12, 1976. But due to some last-minute hitches with the organising committee he dropped his plan and survived the crash,” said Father K M Philip, founder of the Social and Evangelical Association for Love, an NGO in Navi Mumbai.
Philip said after the tragedy, in which Thangal lost some of his friends and business associates, he suffered a series of post-trauma bouts.
“Those days insurance was not popular, and I lost a good amount of money. I was also scared that police will hound me. Almost everyone thought I was among the dead in the crash. I started living in Mumbai doing odd jobs,” Thangal said. He was later shifted to the shelter home of the NGO and was undergoing treatment for mental ailments.
Philip said Thangal was an introvert most of the time and started reeling out his story to one of the counsellors after a long time. Later the NGO started making inquiries and found that his 91-year-old mother Fathima Beevi was alive. Later both talked over the phone, and he was brought to his ancestral home in Sathamkotta on Saturday.
Thangal’s relatives said after the crash they checked the passengers’ list repeatedly and failed to find his name. But since there was no information after the incident, they also presumed that he was among the dead. Though they made some initial inquires, they gave up later.
“It is a dream come true for me. I never thought I would be able to meet my kin, especially my mother,” Thangal said. He has two brothers and three sisters.