MEET REAL LIFE AIRLIFT HERO

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Mathunny Mathews, popularly known as “Toyota Sunny”, is a prominent Indian Business man in Kuwait, who was credited with the safe airlift evacuation of about 1.7 lakh Indians from Kuwait during the “1990 Invasion of Kuwait” which is streamed as the world’s largest civilian evacuation in Histroy. He is an Indian Entrepreneur from Eraviperoor area which is in the state of Kerala. Eighty one years old Mathews hailed from Kumbanad in Pathnamthitta district.

The airlift of Indians was carried out from 13th of August to 11th of October 1990 after the Invasion of Kuwait with the help of Mathunny Mathews. As a result of this effort, Air India holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people evacuated by a Civil airliner. The operation was carried out to evacuate Indian expatriates from Kuwait and Iraq in 1990 during the Persian Gulf War. It is assumed to be the largest civilian evacuation in history till now and he was one of the heroes who made it possible.

Kuwait-based Malayali Businessmen Mathunny Mathews duly assisted by Harbhajan Singh Vedi, played by a stellar role in co-ordinating the evacuation by meeting Indian ambassador in Baghdad and overseeing the transport of thousands of Indians to Amman by bus via Baghdad after striking a deal with Iraq transporters, Indian authorities and United Nations- reported by the leading Indian daily “Times of India”. Mathews was among a small group as the Iraqi army squatted on occupied territory, who drove all the way to Baghdad to meet the visiting external affairs minister IK Gujral. New Delhi, very soon negotiated with Saddam Hussain for the safe return of its citizens.

Mathews, at the age of 20, left for Kuwait in search of job. He reached Kuwait in 1956 by ship when the middle-east was wracked by the Suez Canal crisis. Initially he joined as a typist in Toyota Company and soon mounted to become its Managing Director when he retired in 1989. He started a general trading company and a car rental company in 1990 and he was also the Chairman of Jabriya Indian School. Eighty one year-old Indian speculator Mathunny Mathews was ailing for some time and passed away in Kuwait on Saturday, 20th of May, after being a part of the mini emirate’s fortunes and trials for over six decades. He was instrumental in the safe evacuation of stranded Indians during the Iraq invasion in 1990.In the first week of September 1990, the airlift had begun. It lasted for 59 days and involved 499 sorties. Among all, Mathews was the last to leave. Newspapers reports had shown how Mathews rejected a safe exit and stayed back to help and support thousands of Indians as they travelled across the warfront from Kuwait to Amman, the capital of Jordan to be flown back to home.

Expelling his deepest condolences, the Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan said that Mathews had helped thousands of Indians to flee the Gulf Nation during the 1900 Gulf war. He expressed that his services would always be remembered. Vijayan also said “Mathews had done yeoman service and also provided food and drinking water to the stranded Indians and bought his countrymen safely back, who had lost everything in the war by not taking efforts to save his own life and property. The Chief Minister said that during the gulf war Mathews had functioned as the Central Government’s “unofficial representative” in Kuwait to coordinate the evacuation process.

 

Makers of Airlift recently acknowledged that a Hindi film starring Akshay Kumar as Ranjit Katyal, was a fictional character based on Mathunny Mathews and another Indian Business tycoon Harbhajan Singh Vedi. The movie was released on 22nd January 2016. He was called as “Toyota Sunny” because he worked up with leading automobile dealer ‘Al-Sayer’. Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar who played his role in the historical drama tweeted “Extremely sad news. It was an honour to portray him on screen. Thoughts and prayers with his family.”

Mathews served as patriarch for many Indians who later came to work and live in the oil-rich emirates. He also headed an Indian school, the Indian Arts Circle and many social organisations. People who visited his family home in Kerala would recall the long dining table with trays of food for those who went to him with their problems. Mathews took his last breath at his residence in Qadisiya in Kuwait. He will be airlifted to India one last time for his funeral rites which were to be held at his native place Eraviperoor.

 

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