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Sajjad Thangal was a youthful 25 years when he was believed to have died along with 94 others in an Indian Airlines flight from Mumbai to Madras that crashed on October 12, 1976. Image Credit:

Thiruvananthapuram: Blissful scenes were witnessed at an ashram in Panvel on the outskirts of Mumbai this week when a Keralite who was believed dead in a plane crash 45 years ago was reunited with some of his family members.

The joyous reunion happened at the Social and Evangelical Association for Love (SEAL) Ashram when the man’s family members reached the ashram on hearing about him, to take him home. Later, the delighted family members along with their long lost member reached Kollam, the man’s native district in south Kerala late on Saturday. Present on the occasion to receive their lost son was over 100 people including his relatives from a 2-year-old to his 91-year-old mother.

His village hosted a civic 'reception' at his home and a cake was cut to mark the happy occasion and also present was the local legislator Kovoor Kunjumon.

Sajjad Thangal was a youthful 25 years when he was believed to have died along with 94 others in an Indian Airlines flight from Mumbai to Madras that crashed on October 12, 1976.

Thangal had been in the UAE in the 1970s as a film distributor and had organized a dance show by Rani Chandra, one of Malayalam tinsel world’s leading stars of the 1970s. Thangal was scheduled to accompany the star and other troupe members back to Kerala, but some other engagements prevented him from boarding the ill-fated flight.

Thangal had saved his own life but his family members took him for one of the victims of the air crash and so it remained until last week.

Shattered, traumatized

The air crash and the demise of the artiste he had taken to the Gulf for a cultural performance so traumatized Thangal that he decided not to return to Kerala, and stayed back in Mumbai.

That ‘stay back’ extended to four and a half decades, during which he did odd jobs for sustenance and brooding over the turn of events that had taken him from a young man at the start of a promising career to a heart-broken man trying to remain aloof from everyone.

It was after 43 years of such an existence – by which time he had turned a physical and psychological wreck – that a friend took him to the care of the SEAL Ashram in Panvel.

Nursed back

“When he came here in 2019, he was extremely weak, looked totally exhausted, had bed sores and appeared to be in a sinking stage”, SEAL Ashram director K.M. Philip told Gulf News.

It took months to nurse him back to physical wellness first, before he slowly started recollecting memories of his family and his life story. Once he came out with the details of his early life, the ashram authorities could trace his family members.

“He is yet to absorb the full impact of what has happened over the past few days, and the joy of being reunited with his family after four and a half decades. The family members have planned big celebrations back home when he reaches there”, Philip said.

Back home, 70-year-old Thangal’s mother Fathima Beevi and his three brothers and four sisters were all awaiting the magical moment when they get their long lost family member back.

“Once he regained health and became cheerful we could realise his love for art and culture, and his strong relationships with those in the cultural domain”, Philip said. It was thanks to such friendships that Thangal was taken to the ashram by one of his friends, identified as Prasad.

SEAL Ashram focuses on rescuing and reuniting lost children and adults, calling it ‘rescunite’. The ashram has so far rescued and reunited 433 people over the past 22 years of its existence, and currently has 280 patients at the ashram, Philip said.