GET Stock QuotesNews18 APP
News18 English
Powered by cricketnext logo
»
2-min read

Mathunny Mathews, the Real-life Hero of 'Airlift', Dies in Kuwait

Indian businessman Mathunny Mathews aka Toyota Sunny died aged 81 in Kuwait on Friday after being part of the tiny emirate's fortunes and trials for over six decades.

News18.com

Updated:May 21, 2017, 12:19 PM IST
facebookTwittergoogleskypewhatsapp
Mathunny Mathews, the Real-life Hero of 'Airlift', Dies in Kuwait
Indian businessman Mathunny Mathews aka Toyota Sunny died aged 81 in Kuwait on Friday. (Image Credit: indiansinkuwait.com)

New Delhi: He was known as one of the heroes who made possible the largest civilian evacuation in known history. And the main inspiration behind the 2016 Bollywood historical drama Airlift. Indian businessman Mathunny Mathews aka Toyota Sunny died aged 81 in Kuwait on Friday after being part of the tiny emirate's fortunes and trials for over six decades.

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army swept across Kuwait catching more than 1.7 lakh expat Indians, a large number of them from Mathews's home state of Kerala, in a war they had nothing to do with.

The occupation caught the world largely unawares and took the Iraqi Republican Guard only two days. The Kuwaiti forces put up a token fight before fleeing to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The emir himself escaped to Riyadh, his brother was shot dead by the invaders. Kuwait became the 19th province of Iraq and all the embassies in its capital, including India's, were officially shifted to Basra.

As the Iraqi army squatted on occupied territory, Mathews was among a small group who drove all the way to Baghdad to meet visiting external affairs minister IK Gujral. Soon, New Delhi negotiated with Saddam for the safe return of its citizens.

Newspaper accounts showed how Mathews rejected a safe exit and stayed back to help and support tens of thousands of Indians as they travelled across the warfront from Kuwait to Jordan capital Amman to be flown back home.

The airlift, which began in the first week of September 1990, lasted 59 days and involved 499 sorties. Mathews was among the last to leave.

Makers of Airlift recently acknowledged that Ranjit Katyal, played by Akshay Kumar, was a fictional character based on Mathews and another Indian businessman, Harbhajan Singh Vedi.

The real-life hero had reached Kuwait by ship in 1956 at the age of 20 when the Middle East was wracked by the Suez Canal crisis. He came to be known as 'Toyota Sunny' as he worked his way up leading automobile dealer Al-Sayer.

He also headed the Indian school, the Indian Arts Circle and many social organisations, serving as patriarch for many Indians who later came to work and live in the oil-rich emirate.

Those who visited his family home in Kerala’s Kumbanad would recall the long dining table with trays of food for those who went to him with their problems.

Mathews died at his residence in Qadisiya in Kuwait. He will be airlifted to India one last time, for the funeral rites to be held at his native place Eraviperoor.

Also Watch

Read full article
Next Story
Next Story
facebookTwittergoogleskypewhatsapp

Live TV