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Real-life hero Matthunny Mathews who inspired 'Airlift' dies in Kuwait

Eighty one-year-old Mathews, who hailed from Kumbanad in Pathnamthitta district, was ailing for some time and passed away on Saturday, media reports here said.
PTI Thiruvananthapuram May 21, 2017 16:46 IST
PTI

Prominent Indian businessman in Kuwait, Matthunny Mathews, who was instrumental in the safe evacuation of stranded Indians during the Iraqi invasion in 1990, passed away in Kuwait.

Eighty one-year-old Mathews, who hailed from Kumbanad in Pathnamthitta district, was ailing for some time and passed away on Saturday, media reports here said.

Expressing his condolence, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that during the 1990 Gulf war Mathews had helped thousands of Indians to flee the gulf nation and his services would always be remembered.

By not taking efforts to save his own life and property, Mathews had done yeoman service to bring his countrymen, who had lost everything in the war, safely back, Vijayan said.

"He provided food and drinking water to the stranded Indians and we remember it with gratitude," Vijayan said.

The V P Singh government had in 1990 carried out the biggest evacuation during the gulf war when over 1.50 lakh standard Indians had been safely brought back by flight. At that time Mathews had functioned as the Central Government's "unofficial representative" in Kuwait to coordinate the evacuation process, the Chief Minister said.

Popularly known as 'Toyota Sunny', Mathunny Mathews was said to be the inspiration of Akshay Kumar's character in Bollywood film 'Airlift'.

"Extremely sad news, was an honour to portray him on screen. Thoughts and prayers with his family", Akshay Kumar said in a tweet.

Mathews, left for Kuwait 1956 at the age of 20 in search of job. He joined as a typist in the Toyota company and rose to become its Managing Director when he retired in 1989.

He started a car rental company and a general trading company in 1990 and was also the Chairman of Jabriya Indian school.