Airlift, starring Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur which released today, has made an entire generation aware of what remains one of the most successful and biggest rescue operation carried out by India – that of safely carrying 1,70,000 Indians back home from war-torn Kuwait in 1990.

However, not much is known about the heroes of that operation. According to Airlift director Raja Krishna Menon, details are vague, but his research told him that two men – Sunny Mathews and Vedi – had formed an unofficial committee at that time, and carried out the rescue work. In fact, Akshay Kumar’s character in the film, Ranjit Katyal, though fictional, is an amalgamation of the two men, he said.

A day before the film’s release, the granddaughter of Sunny Mathews wrote an emotional post about her grandpa, remembering him as an inspirational icon.

Here’s is what the post said:

To know more about the man, read what Ashoke Kumar Sengupta, the then officer-in-charge of the Indian embassy in Kuwait from August 24, said about Mathews in an interview to The Times of India

“The first challenge was to prepare over 100,000 travel documents. Delhi had sent two planes for evacuation. Ships began arriving a lot later. With nearly a lakh people stranded, I had to look at the alternative of bulk evacuation by road. Sunny Mathews, an extremely resourceful Indian working in Toyota, did a great job negotiating with private bus operators for evacuation via Iraq to Jordan by road. These were 2,000 km trips. Though Iraqi soldiers did not target Indians as many Iraqi officers were trained in India, it was still a dangerous journey.”

Feature image: Facebook