The real inspiration behind Ranjit Katyal- Mathunny Mathews

Mathunny Mathews

The 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait was carried out between August 13, 1990, to October 20, 1990, during the invasion of Kuwait. It was an operation conducted by Iraq in the neighboring state of Kuwait. It resulted in seven-month-long military occupations in the country. After the military intervention by the United States, seize halted and the event came to be known as the first Gulf War, which ended with Iraq’s withdrawal.

During the invasion, the country was witnessing huge catastrophic events, and many people especially those of different origins feared for their lives. Among all this, an Indian-origin Kuwait resident stood up and carried out one of the largest civilian airlift evacuations in history. Akshay Kumar starer ‘Airlift’ was the movie based on the events, but unlike the Ranjit Katyal in the movie, the real hero was Mathunny Mathews. This is his story.

Mathunny Mathews is credited for the safe airlift evacuation of about 170,000 Indians from Kuwait.

Mathunny Mathews

Mathunny Mathews was born in 1936 in Kerala (Eraviperoor), Kumbanad, India. He was also known as Toyota Sunny as he worked in Kuwait with the Toyota Agency in the country. In 1956, at the age of 20, Mathews traveled by ship to Kuwait as an immigrant looking for better employment opportunities.

He started a car rental company and a general trading company in 1990 and later worked for Toyota and was raised to the rank of MD. He was also the chairman of Jabriya Indian School in Kuwait. In 1989, Mathews retired from his MD position. Then he also served as a founding member of the Indian Art’s Circle.

His Help in the evacuation efforts

In 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, Mathunny Mathews was residing in Kuwait with his wife. He witnessed the atrocities of war firsthand and decided to help his fellow countrymen, who had lost everything in the war. With the help of other Indian’s based in Kuwait along with Harbhajan Singh Ved, an Indian-based millionaire in Kuwait, Mathews began his efforts in evacuation.

Mathunny Mathews

He coordinated the evacuation operation by meeting the Indian ambassador in Baghdad and oversaw the transport of Indians from Baghdad to Amman by bus. He strick the deal with the Iraqi Transporters, Indian authorities, and the UN. The airlift operation was carried out from 13 August to 11 October 1990. He also provided food and drinking water to the stranded Indians. The operation was carried out during the Persian Gulf War in 1990 to evacuate Indian expatriates from Kuwait and Iraq.

The evacuation was the largest civilian evacuation in history with more than 170,000 people brought back home safely. The effort holds the Guinness Book of World Records for most people evacuation by a civil airliner. The Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “At that time Mathews had functioned as the Central Government’s ‘unofficial representative’ in Kuwait to coordinate the evacuation process.”

The hero died in 2017 at the age of 81 in Kuwait. He lived in Kuwait for more than 6 decades and is remembered for his contribution to the Indian diaspora in Kuwait. He was the true hero and India won’t ever forget his selfless patriotism. 


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