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28 Feb 1992 - 8 Aug 1996

25 DEC 1952 - 13 NOV 1995



Biographical film on a Malayali entrepreneur.
The backdrop is the greatest of all
Malayali Sagas  - Gulf Migration.


The page here contains raw data awaiting a visual narrative.

Proposed in 2019, stalled by Covid, this project ought to become fruitful ... God Willing. 

Jijo. 13 Nov 2022.

According to Faisal - the youngest of the Wahid brothers, the chance archetypal meeting between Nazirudeen Wahid and Ahmed Mansoor Al A'ali (illustrated below) is the moment the story of East West begins.

Nazirudeen Abdul Wahid was one of the pioneers who initiated the business of providing Human Resources from Kerala to the Arabian Gulf States.


His trustworthiness and hardwork endeared him to the Royal house of Bahrain. Providing human services lead his enterprise to the travel business. His organization - East West Travels & Trade Links, a retail agency for all major airlines, by selling the highest number of airline tickets  became the most leading travel house in Asia ... and then, to start the first private airline in India.


Nazir was the guiding source of Thakiyudeen. Nazir laid the foundation to an empire which was professionalised by Thakiyudeen. 


Naziruddeen Wahid consoled by Dr. Zakaria at Thakiyudeen Wahid condolence meeting.

Line-and-wash illustrations by RK. 

Digital illustrations by Sethu Sivanandan.

Model Shoots by Ashwin &  Vincent JesusYouth, Althaf Hussein.

Archival photos courtesy Peermuhammad, EWA staff.


jijo, shahil, shanu
bengaluru 12 oct 2019


shanu, jijo, mathew, peermuhammed, sajeena
bengaluru 12 oct 2019


sheena, najeeb, shanu 
bengaluru 12 oct 2019



          " ... how would you depict the great man ...  vilified as one with them, yet slain by the same netherworld?"  Asked Sheena.

          Answered Shanu (Fahadh) "I would rather depict the father you lost at 6 years of age, and missed him thereafter. I am here to understand that person"

          Sheena “ … the last I remember him was about coming home early from office and lying on the bed, so that my young brother and me can clamber all over him”.


Sajeena “I sometimes wonder how such a compassionate person’s life could be cut short so cruelly!

To quote one instance … I was travelling with my husband … Delhi – Mumbai. It was an Indian Airlines flight. Thaky noticed a woman sitting distraught … and asked me to inquire the reason. I found from the woman that her mother had expired. ....


 .... The poor woman wont be able to attended the funeral because the last connecting flight to her destination would have left by the time we land in Mumbai (then, Bombay). When we landed in Mumbai, Thaky arranged tickets on two connection flights by which she would be able to reach in time to attend the funeral. It was … free. On his words, the airlines wouldn’t charge any fare”.


Shahil “You wont believe, my father even today helps me! Whenever I face business difficulties, without even my asking, I find unknown persons coming to help. They'd confide that it's because I am the son of Thakiyuddin, to whom they owe a lot”.  


Thaky -

The Story of East West

Navodaya Studio,

Kakkanad, Kochi.

24 February, 2019

Project tentatively titled


On The Wings Of Fire


This is a proposed biographical film on the life and times of

Thakiyudeen Wahid - the visionary,

and that of East West Travels - the family-run ticketing business of the 1980s which launched India's first private airline during the economic liberation of the 1990s.


East-West Airlines was the first scheduled private airline in India to take off the ground after the Open Skies policy was announced in 1991.

On 13 November 1995 East-West_Airlines managing director Thakiyudeen Wahid was shot dead near his Mumbai office.

The airline ceased operations in 1996. [WIKI].


Conspiracy theories apart, the Mumbai Police even 2 decades after Thakiyudeen’s assassination, is clueless as of the motives or the persons behind the crime.


The real-life events in this film are based on the personal experiences of individuals around Thaky (as he was affectionately addressed) during the period 1985 to 1995. These events have also been chronicled by investigative journalist Josy Joseph (in section two - a very private private sector) of his recently published book

'A Feast Of Vultures'.

[The book depicts the all-pervasive corruption in the corporate and government business transactions of Democratic India].


This film of ours would rather focus on the insights of the protagonist Thaki, who from an unlikely family and academic background came to achieve a feat which even the Business House of the Tatas - a legacy of J.D.R. Tata, the pioneer Indian aviator - balked at. This is to say; that the topic of corporate rivalry and the question of how Thaky's life was sadly cut short, are only incidental in the narrative of this film. We would like this film to be an inspiration to a new generation of 'visionaries' in 21st Century India.


This film shall also be a study on how Malayalees (natives of Kerala State) conduct their family business ... an analysis of the pros & cons of the relationships within the family when running a business, and the cultural parallels with other models of family-run operations - say; for instance, Gujarati or Marwari. This analysis is of significance ... because, as against the corporate landscape of the 1990s when there were few Malayali visionaries apart from Thakiyudeen of the East West or Ravi Mammen of the MRF,* today we have thousands of young Malayalee

also Captain Nair of Leela Hotels, T.G.P. Nambiar of BPL.  

entrepreneurs of both genders - many of them scions to family businesses of high
repute and brand value, poised to go global with their dreams On The Wings Of Fire.

With this film we should make them draw their own inferences on the 1) cultural values 2) family traditions and 3) moral wisdom handed down from the past ... while also learning lessons from the previous generation’s pitfalls.


About the film's treatment

Despite the fact the subject is inherently a 'corporate-crime-thriller', given the backdrop of the historical migration of Malayalee workforce from Kerala to the Arabian Gulf States, we see this film as a saga. Such are the annals one cannot disregard in this film, albeit a biographical. I am sure you would remember the passionate and heartrending stories from the closing decades of the 20th century ... stories of individuals from Kerala who, seeking jobs in the Gulf, left their homes ... stories of those who returned, and those who didn't. Those stories are inseparable from that of the East West - a family-run ticketing business who facilitated their travels.


for the scripting team,



Area of Kerala state - 35000 sq km.

Area of Arabian Gulf states - 3.5 million sq km.

The population Kerala - 35 million.

The number of Keralites in the Middle East - about 3.5 million. (10% of Kerala).

Aproximately 10% of Keralites are migrant workers to the Arabian Gulf states.

They move to an area 100 times larger than that of their native land.

In many of the Gulf states, Keralite outnumber the natives in the ratio 10:1

* It was called the Licence Raj.

The period was such, the CK Birla Hindustan Motors - manufacturers of the Ambassador Car, would lobby at Delhi corridoors to scuttle any new automobile manufacturing proposal. They would even dissuade the Indian Government from allowing competitors - Premier Padmini, Standard Herald, increase their production quota.


Similarly, the Bureaucrats  at Hindustan Photo Films would lobby to keep import duty on Kodak, Fuji and Agfa products exorbitantly  high. This was to keep selling their substandard Indu Film within India. 


Starting from the 70s, even in the 1990s, the lion’s share of the migrant workers from Kerala to the Gulf moved back and forth through a harrowing 10 X 10 square kilometer area that was the Mumbai-Santcruz-Sahar vortex. For two long decades, vested trade nexus - travel agents, hotels, taxis, porters, ... even our own national airline (!) made the Gulf Malabari ’s transit costly and miserable. The agony and fleece would abate only when Kerala was to have its own International Airports - which the Mumbai lobby fought* tooth and nail.

The route from the Santacruz Domestic terminal to the Sahar International - a distance of 12 km around the airfield, added to the woes and uncertainties of a malayalee migrant laborer from Kerala to the Arabian Gulf.


Taki’s Most Brilliant Vision.

Making Malidives the East West Airlines hub, would have at one stroke freed Malayalees the vexing transit at Mumbai-Santacruz-Sahar.

The Airline, as a result, would have enjoyed all the benefits of a Domestic Airline blessed with International Operations - especially the saving on the Import & Excise Duties of Air Fuel.

This advantages - which many Indian private operators enjoy today, was forseen by Thaki.

The fact is, he served as a pathfinder for many.

As shown on the left,

the opportunities that would have opened up are mind boggling.


In two decades, it could have made the State of Kerala another Singapore.


Instead, as shown above, Male airlines today has little impact on Asian air routes.


For India, even today, it remains a dream.


Research. Dec 2019

a story of lost opportunity
Making Malidives the
East West Airlines hub

3 October 1993 
14:26 Hours
Hulhule Island airport, Maldives.

Walking across the aerobridge to board flight Ul-116 at Velana International Airport, the high-power team members of East West Airlines were ecstatic.

After 3 months of Bombay – Colombo – Male – Colombo – Bombay trips, the drafting of thousands of Viability Report pages, many Financial Analysis spreadsheet printouts, session after session of negotiations ... at last, the Final Project Report was approved by the Maldives President.


Efforts attained fruition, they were on way back home to Bombay ... again via Colombo. Avoiding taking direct flights to keep the Indian Airlines unaware of their business plan, had surely worked.


His Excellency, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, would be making the announcement in the Maldives Parliament tomorrow morning.


The world would be listening.


It would be a new dawn for East West, for the Indian Aviation, for Maldives, … and ...

Oh! for the State of Kerala and its Gulf Malayali migrants

* This phenomenon of crony monopoly protectionism is not unique for India. For example, the State of  Washington USA, for 3 decades lobbied to deprive Alaska (now the largest State in the Union) from obtaining statehood. This, purely for the commercial reason to keep all goods imported to the neighboring Alaska routed through the  Washington State, at exorbitant  transit costs. 


14:31 Hours

At the aircraft door, Finance Chief Prakash Page - the senior member in the group, was handed a message from Sherriff - Male’s Director of Civil Aviation, instructing them to return back, urgently.


Without boarding, they rushed back on the ferry to the main island.


At Muliaage President’s Palace, a fuming Ambari Abdul Sattar was waiting for them.

The Chief of Staff of President Gayoom muttered under his breath …


“The Deal is off!

Tear up the Documents, Now!!”


In answer to their puzzled expressions, Sattar flicked forward a fax message from Bombay lying on his table …

The Maldivian Official, who till a few hours ago was their most benevolent host, was indignant …


“What credibility my President would have tomorrow announcing this in the Parliament …

after a two-bit girl reporter scoops it for a Bombay Tabloid?

His Excellency would be ridiculed in the Parliament!”


In the aftermath, piecing together the ‘non-event’, Thaky realized that it was ****, his sibling, accidentally seeing the Top Secret Maldives File on his desk that morning, who leaked the story to a girlfriend - the MID-DAY reporter.

Thaky noted wryly …


“With such well-wishers inside, who needs enemies out there to bring us down”


.pdf copy of the document executed and torn up.

courtesy: Peermuhammad


Bollywood Glitterati


Hotel Taj Mahal Palace Bombay 
March 1993
TEJ ( तेज़ - fast) Airways  Launch   Announcement

Thakiyudin Wahid - M.D. of East West Airlines now a year into operation as the first private airline in India, took along his advisor M. Najeeb for the said function at Nariman point. Just the day before, Narsingh Gorarang) – Chairman of TEJ Airways coming in as India’s second private airline, had personally come to East West Offices seeking the blessings of his business competitor.  

Almost every who’s who of Bombay film Industry was there at the function. In fact, it seemed like a Bollywood bash. The felicitations by the stars ended with Actor Shabana Azmi introducing Mr. Gorarang to the gathering. As stage lights focused on the TEJ Airways Chairman, a group of saree-clad models sensuously catwalked from the audience to line up behind Gorarang. 

Pretense of professionalism having given way entirely to glamour, Thaky whispered to Najeeb besides him 

“Ikka (brother), … look behind him … he is displaying his strength that got him this far.  You know, we don’t intent to compete on that front.”

In a decade with Thaky, this is the only critical comment  about a person Najeeb had ever heard from Thaky’s lips. And these words were about the person who did his best to see Thaky and his organization removed from the turf. 

In the article “A Jet Propelled By Don Ibrahim” OutLook Magazine Quotes Josy Joseph, Investigative Journalist, in establishing that it was in fact TEJ (तेज़  - fast) Airways which got the D Company patronage … and not East West, as once falsely accused with planted News Media Campaigns by TEJ Airways Chairman - Narsingh Gorarang).  


Josy Joseph

“A film on Thakkiyuddin?

Sure … it would be a great service to the society, not for the man.  

My book, which has a section relating to the East West, is about political/ corporate corruption in the Indian Democracy.

It is only incidental that Thakkiyudin, a fellow malayali, is one of the subjects.

But when I went deep into the story, I realized that such a disservice has been done to a family – the Wahids, who had done so much for the society.

This story demands to be told to clear their name and acknowledge that they were responsible for the dreams of the people of a state, in becoming true”.


The Harm Caused

to one and all

by Narsingh Gorarang of TEJ

(this topic, to be detailed here)


Chronology of Events



Nazir, the eldest of Wahid brothers, has a chance meeting with Bahrain Prince Sheik Al Manzoor Al Ali at Sahar Airport.

Nazir calls his 3 brothers to start their Gulf Manpower Agency in Mumbai for supplying workforce to Bahrain.

The opening of Prabhadevi office.


Expanding Operations - Ticketing business

East West Travel & Trade Links PVT.LTD.

28 offices all over India.

Phenomenal Growth

1st year turnover was 4 Crores.

2nd year was 12 Crores..

4th year was 45 Crores.

6th year was 130


8th year was 500 Crores!!

The very first Indian Company to reach a 500 Cr. Turnover !

60% of all AirIndia - the nation's international carrier, tickets were being sold by EastWest Travels. Won the award as Saudia's highest retailer. BA, GulfAir, ...

Thus, EastWest had become the Largest

Air-ticket Retailer in the whole of Asia!!


Indira Gandhi Assassination 31 Oct 1984

Indira Gandhi to Rajeev Gandhi transition


Open Skies Policy

Rajeev Gandhi to V.P. Singh transition


TVM Airport becomes International

Rajeev Gandhi Assassination 21 May 1991

Rajeev Gandhi to Narasimha Rao transition

Saddam 1st Gulf War

PANAM & Eastern close down


First Flight Bom - Cok 28 Feb 1992

Harshad Mehta Stock Market Crash

Indian Airlines Strike. EWA increases flights

Babri Masjid, Mumbai riots 6 Dec 1992


TU 154 Crash. Scindia resigns 9 Jan 1993

Mumbai Dawood Blasts 12 March 1993

Raids on East West. 

Jet Airways Inaugural Flight 1 May 1993

East West Public Issue -

250 times over subscribed

Thaky Assassination 13 Nov 1995

East West Airlines ceases operations

8 Aug 1996


In their first meeting,

Chartered Accountant V.Page

said to the naive young high school dropout from Kerala named Thaky – the second of the Wahid brothers  …

“Instead of working from your briefcase – as any Malayalee proprietorship concern does, you have to be a LTD. Company … that is the only way to grow”.

What Prakash Page advised then, was 'jurisprudence'. One decade hence, an internationally renowned Financial Consultant V.Page sees Thakiyuddin Wahid heading a 1000 Crore company and impressing Kings, Prime Ministers and Presidents of Aircraft Manufacturing Corporations with his deep knowledge on aviation!


Why Thaky could build The East West Travel Empire like no other company? Page answers ...

Wahid brothers’ ventures carried 3 advantages:

They belonged to a state where the maximum migrants at that time come from - Kerala.

They were into something which was business on one side and service to the society on the other.

Due to good services rendered by a committed EW Staff, the company got lot of repeat jobs.

1980s - That was the time Keralites were the most International travelling community.

The Wahid brothers gave everybody more – much, much more than what they took, especially to the gulf Malayalees.


With ticketing business as an ancillary to manpower recruitment, 28 offices all over India opened in one single year. The saying arose …

 “If it’s East West, your job visa, tickets, Mumbai transit, everything is assured! … Any additional support by the company staff comes free of cost”.


At the Mahanagar Police Commissioner's Office.

To refute the accusation that D Company is funding East West's operations, Peermuhammed presents their company turnover from the tax filing records.

After a careful perusal, the stunned Commissioner turns around to ask his sleuths …

“With such funds in hand, what earthly reason for anybody to seek underworld financing?”

Peermuhammed then makes aware that their entire operation is backed by the blood, sweat, tears and prayers of 10% of all malayalees. He also explains the economics of sending one person abroad. Contrary to other job agents, his company doesn't charge a gulf recruitee even a single rupee. Instead, the gulf job sponsor pays them a commission and the person's travel fare as un-discounted ticket cost to East West. The discount they pocket from the retail ticket they issue to a gulf recruitee, by itself is a profit ... a large profit!

 “With six lakhs yearly sent from India by the tickets of East West to Gulf – a lion’s share of emigrants, every single family in Kerala we touch!


PeerMuhammed then turns to a keralite assistant commissioner and says in Malayalam –

Onnu paranju kodu ente sarey …


George introduced Thaky to Rajeev Gandhi at a gathering. Glancing at the note handed to him the Prime Minister says …

“Largest air ticket sales in Asia? … which means … one day, you could be the largest airline in Asia … then possibly, the largest in the world!”

Rajeev Gandhi then whispers something to the Civil Aviation Minister. Given the recent Open Skies Policy, Scindia the Minister calls a meeting with Thaky to suggest his starting a private sector airline.


Finance Director

CA Prakash V Page



This was an Ad coined by Ram, Commercial Manager at East West. 
It was designed and released by Ad agency Mudra.

April 1992. At East West’s offer of double their existing salary, highly experienced pilots from Indian Airlines and Air India started leaving the national carriers to join the new private airline.


The catalyst was Reghe – the brilliant Navigator turned Operations Director of Indian Airlines, who at Thaky’s invitation joined as the first outsider in the new company. Reghe shook the tree at the Indian Airlines and Thaky collected the apples. (A self-taught authority on aircraft technicalities and logistics (!), Thaky personally interviewed and recruited each and every pilot. With them he shared personal rapport till the very end). The migration became a landslide with The Indian Airlines strike of 1993.

<< Hence the reason for the PMs & Presidents Ad.   

Viewed in retrospect, brilliant copywriting apart, there was a pitfall there.

As an irate Civil Aviation Secretary told Thaky

“You have set a dangerous precedent … the same can happen to you tomorrow”.

But the worst fallout was the enmity of the Indian Airlines Labor Union due to the loss of their members. 



"Beware the enemy within … not the one out there!"

It was East West's internal flaws that eventually brought the collapse of the organization. The external threats, for a high-profile company of this nature, were always there. A prudent Management Consultant had once warned ...

"You malayalees put family ties and sentiments before business sense. Watch a Gujarathi family doing business … If any one among the brothers is found to be deficient, the rest of the family members join hands, and keep him out from management … Yet they see to it that the black sheep is given equal share as every other brother participating. Filial ties should never come in the way of business".


The downfall of East West started when the ‘Bread & Butter’ business – Ticketing (a cash cow), became neglected with the starting of the glamorous Airline Operations - says Company Secretary Sanjay H Indulkar

“In success is sown the seeds of disaster”

The adage –

“The surest way to create a millionaire is to make a billionaire start an Airline”

 - was amply proven yet again most recently by the brewer Vijay Mallya.


Having foreseen the above pitfalls, Thaky was pursuing venues to diversify operations - Hotels, Real Estate, Airports (Tutucorin) … A-check, B-check, C-check (Aircraft Strip-down Maintenance), and International tie-ups.

But filial obligations curtailed him.

And then came the assassination.


Company Secretary

Sanjay H Indulkar


Despite Narsingh Gorarang winning the GSA [General Sales Agency] of Gulf Air for his much smaller travel agency - TEJAir, Wahid brothers' East West Travels was still selling the maximum number of Gulf Air Tickets.

Josey Joseph, A Feast of Vultures.


One prominent Bombay Socialite said …

“I can today (in 1992) name at least 10 businessmen in the city who can spare 10 crores in cash … just like that. Most of them wouldn’t possibly know each other. But, all of them would certainly know Thaky of East West. Such is his stature”.


A reputed investigative journalist (in 1996) commented …

“It is somewhat true that the Wahid Brothers’ disadvantage was not in having a ‘Godfather’ in India’s power corridors - other than Thaky’s personal rapport with Scindia, the then aviation cabinet minister. But the pathetic fact is, when big states like Andhra or puny ones like Orissa would see their MPs close ranks to lobby strongly in the Parliament in advantage of their state interests & enterprises, the ones from Kerala were selfishly focused on scrounging – free tickets, booze and obtaining airhostess jobs for their paramours. Across the political spectrum, no Kerala M.P.s ever coordinated efforts in the Indian Parliament to mitigate the agony of the gulf-malayalees - the most numerous among the air-travelers of the time ... NEVER”.


A Hariyanvi H.R. Consultant said ...

"You Wahid brothers, work very hard. In fact, I find most mallus hardworking - outside the state of Kerala. But at home, you are among the laziest! … Where else in the world can you find people extorting 'idle-money' by permitting others to work?"


Taky’s vision is demonstrated in brother Taha’s words on how he procured a sales counter he happened to see at the Cathay Pacific office in HK. It was sourced to an Italian manufacturer. Once imported to Bombay, installing the long marble table required the renting of four adjacent shops and the demolishing of the in-between walls. In 1982, this became their first office at Prabhadevi.

"Hordes of traders from nearby, and as far from Dalal Street, would come to see our Currency Counting Machines, Computers, Networked Reservation Systems … all these for the first time in Mumbai".


Thaky’s character I will describe in one single sentence, says Prakash V. Page

“Buy any proprietary software, you pay a license fee … but if you buy  open source, you don’t have to pay”.

Thaki was like an open source software.

Thaki’s  friendship came without any cost, by nature itself.

He could win over anyone with his personality.



Assassination. Underworld


13 November 1995.

It was almost 9.25 p.m.

The car had reached as far as Dr Abbas Sajun's clinic when a red Maruti van reversed out of a narrow intersecting road and blocked the blue Mercedes's path.


Three armed, men ran out of the van, one wielding a hammer, and started towards Thakiyuddin's car.

The man with the hammer began to break the windscreen. The other two began firing into the car.

Thakiyuddin tried to duck behind the seats, but was still showered with a volley of bullets.

He shouted frantically at his driver, 'Reverse, reverse!'

But there was little room to manoeuvre on that narrow road.

Josy Joseph.

A Feast Of Vultures.

Section Two. A Private Private


Battle for the Skies.


During one Former EWA Staff Get-Together, Sabu – once a ground manager at EWA, said

“We were a committed lot … . For us the day would start at 04.00 hours at catering division behind the East West airport offices at Santa Cruz Domestic Terminal.

By 05.00 hours, EWA aircrafts would be taking off to different directions of the country.

Past 07.00 hours, incoming EWA aircrafts would start landing. The turn-arounds would keep happening throughout the day.


But the real effort was in facilitating 300 to 600 poor transitory passengers reach Sahar, get past emigration & customs and board AirIndia, GulfAir, … Emirates flights. Most would have a predicament unique to that traveler. It was an everyday challenge. Had to be accomplished day-in and day-out. It would go on till the early morning hours of the next day!”


During the International Mayors Conference 1998 in Tokyo, Mr. M. Najeeb – Thiruvanthapuram City Commissioner and erstwhile East West Analyst and Advisor, had a chance meeting with the Mayor of Mumbai – Ms. Vishakha Raut.

“Najeeb! You don’t remember me?” The Lady who had recently become the Mayor of Mumbai exclaimed. “ … I was one of the Station Managers for East West!”

To an apologetic Mr. Najeeb, she said

“You know, there are many like us - former members of East West, whom you would come across at far flung places … an Airport CEO in New Zealand, a Secretary at Afro-Asia, a Director at World Economic forum, a Safety Officer at FAA, a Hospitality Director at Langan … and another, a Chief Engineer for Latin American Tarmacs”.

Beaming with pride, she added

“What all of us have in common is the wonderful grounding we had while at EWA!”



Night Landing. Bonfires.


20 March 1994
Boeing 737 - 200 landing at 19.20 Hours

(36 minutes after sundown).

20 minutes had elapsed out of 80 minutes flying time.
Captain Luis Fernandez was the first to realize the gaffe.
His scheduled flight to Goa had taken off from Santacruz, Bombay at 17.55 hours.  4 hours behind schedule. Still, the East West crew at the apron should have prevented the takeoff. Sun would set at 18.44 hours at Goa which had no nighttime landing facility! Somebody had goofed.

[Nepotism? Willful Disruption? Well, ... apportioning of blame can wait] 


By the time the Captain was told to divert to Bangalore, it was too late. Fernandez would run out of fuel!

The passengers and the cabin staff were unaware of this. (They would ever remain so. So would the ATC).


On radio VHF 112 MHz, in a calm voice Captain Fernandez instructed East West Airlines HQ at Bandra to prepare for an unconventional landing. Near him, the young First Officer started sweating. On an STD landline, the Captain's instructions were verbally communicated from Bandra Office to Station Manager Arun Nair at Goa.

As everyone held their breath, there was hushed silence at Bandra HQ.Only engine whining sound could be heard in the aircraft cockpit. There was fire crackling sound at the edge of the runway. 

My gratitude to Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil - Social Scientist and Faculty Member at IIT Mumbai, who shared his own experiences on the Gulf Malayalees.

Like me, he had made the same observations during the 1980s. 

What a difference!
Now and Then
അന്നും,  ഇന്നും!- (1)

Year 2018. I saw Tulip Cherian (aged 24 years) along with a group of excited techie colleagues get out from Uber cabs and breeze into Nedumbassery International Airport Departure Terminal.

On H-1B visas (issued to TCS), they were to board an AirIndia NY direct.




It was Wahid Brothers who made the difference ...

between now and then.  

Exactly 34 years ago, Tulip’s father Cherian Philip (aged 28 years) was one among many who sat huddled at Santacruz Airport. Anxiously gazing at the Airline counter, he was waiting his turn to be summoned for a confirmed ticket to Doha. 

Having procured a job-visa from an agent at my hometown Alappuzha, he had arrived Bombay on bus a week before.




അന്നും,  ഇന്നും! - (2)


20 April 2019. Vyttila Bus Terminal Kochi.


For voicing complaints about service deficiencies, the staff of Kallada Travels - the numero uno interstate private transporter, assaulted Bangalore-bound passengers travelling on their luxury bus.


It happened during midnight hours.

By morning, the mobile phone video had become viral.



It was Wahid Brothers who made the difference ...

between now and then.  


About the same time of the year. 35 years ago. A day after the Vishu holidays. Sahar Airport Bombay.

To accommodate the perturbed Gulf-bound passengers arriving on a delayed Indian Airlines flight from Kochi and missing their Air India connection flight, the MD of East West (travel agents) used his influence to hold a Gulf Air flight from departing to Bahrain. 

The ground staff of East West Travels cajoled the Gulf Air cabin crew to accommodate passengers in their vacant premium class seats.



അന്നും,  ഇന്നും! - (3)


December 2019.

I came across an article (replete with selfies) on prominent members of a Gulf Malayali Diaspora reenacting an air travel to celebrate their glorious heritage.

At their destination, they were received with Aana, ambari & Panchavadyam - the Keralite pomp & show.

Maybe it was my mind playing tricks …  the facial features of a few among the members in the group looked similar to that of my fellow passengers during the early-1980s.



It was Wahid Brothers who made the difference ...

between now and then.  


Early 1980s. I was in my mid 20s then.

Travelling back from trips to Europe, if ever I transited with a connection via the Middle East, my fellow travelling compatriots would swarm me! 

No, not for my autograph … for, I am no celebrity. 
The first time it happened, I was indeed startled. Before even I could lift my head after completing the landing papers (customs and immigration), I would behold in front of my face a dozen arms thrust forward  …  with papers to be filled. Beyond each, I would see pleading, apologetic eyes with illiteracy written in them.



അന്നും,  ഇന്നും!

-  A personal testimony by Jijo (now aged 62 years) a witness to these events. October 2019.

Pollachi. 23 February 2022. 
At Navodaya’s request, Peermuhammad – erstwhile Regional Director for East West, met with Ramachandran Iyer – once the Commercial Manager for East West, to reminiscent the functioning 30 years ago at their legendary organization.  


The revolutionary gambits formulated by them in East West Travels (ticketing division) during 1988, they continued into East West Airlines (flight operation) in 1992. 

In 1988, East West Travels – an IATA Registered Ticketing Agency, gave away to every minor sub-agent at big and small towns of India, 8% of the 9% customary commission granted to them by established airlines (Indian Airlines, Air India, Gulf Air, Emirates, Malaysia, SriLanka … etc.).

It was an unprecedented policy change.

East West Travels also kept their offices open 24 hours during the days of the Gulf rush.

That saw the posh air-conditioned offices of major travel agents of the time (Goan, Sita … etc.) lose hundreds of sub-agents booking tickets for the poorest among the air-travelers.

With such compassionate value-added services, East West’s sales sky rocketed.

But it also attracted envy of business cartels. 

In 1992, once they started the airline, all early morning International flights landing at Sahar Airport Bombay were received by East West Airlines staff. The Gulf returnees in them were offered instant tickets and sumptuous breakfasts on East West Airline’s flights from Bombay to Mangalore/ Kochi/ Hyderabad/ Madurai sectors. This was a huge relief to the harrowed Gulf traveler. 

Ah, and there were other fascinations too … children joyfully shouting during the Magic Shows in East West’s Ahmedabad-Bombay flights! 

The till then monopoly Indian Airlines (with East West Travel Division still its most major client), started facing stiff competition from East West Airlines – the new kid in the block. And this antagonized the powerful Indian Airlines Labor Union.


 “ ... only the Prime Minister of India can do it ...”

That is what Ramachandan Iyer told Nazirudin Wahid, Chairman of his company - East West Travels (Ticketing).

“Then you'd better speak to him

Shouted his boss picking up and handing him the phone receiver.

Holding the ‘land-line phone receiver of the pre-mobile era’  Ram stared open-mouthed at the challenger. Nazirudin started dialing the number to the South Block, PM's Secretariat, New Delhi.

At 9 PM, it was long past office hours.


a voice was heard at the other end of the phone line.

“May I speak to V. P. Singh?”

blurted out Ram.

“Speaking, ... who is this?”

came the reply!

(to be concluded)


Company/ Family Board Meeting


PLACE East West Airlines (EWA) Coprporate Offices, Bandra, Bombay.
Day 12 March 1993.
EVENT Company Board Meeting

AGENDA Expansion of the Company Board.

In view of going international, EWA was coming out with a public issue. Thaky desired to include professionals from outside as Board Members. 

Peeru Muhammed, himself an advocate, had approached personalities of high integrity and reputation with requests. They gladly agreed to join the East West Airlines Board. One was a retired SC Judge. Another, an erstwhile Finance Secretary once holding cabinet rank. 


The agenda and resolution papers were circulated by EWA Company Secretary Sanjay Indulkar. The motion was moved by EWA Finance Director Prakash Page. Thaky, the MD, sat pensive.


As usual, the items in the agenda were not even discussed by the Board. The focus of the Board Meeting suddenly shifted to the next session – Lunch. It was not a business lunch, but a very own home lunch!

The Chairman deliberated in detail with the Board (all of them family members), the Karimeem Pollichathu (grilled pearlspot fish) and Kappa Puzhukku (baked tapioca) airlifted from their native Odiyam village 800 miles south of Bombay, arrived home-prepared in hot cases – thanks to the company’s own East West Trivandrum-Bombay noon flight.


M. Najeeb posing for the 'Thaky posture'.

Photographed by Nibitha Najeeb.


Illustration by Sethu Sivanandan


August 1995 (about a month before Thaky was assassinated)
Walking along Lowndes Square Garden, London. 

In a rare moment of intimacy, Thaky confided this to his onetime mentor and now turned consigliere (no malfeasance here) – Prakash Page.  

“There has been that one mistake in the past ... which would catch up sooner or later … and I know I would have to pay the price. No escaping that!” 


Financial year 1985-1986. 
The Company - East West (ticketing), had a turnover of 85 crores, and was poised for doubling that the next year.
But there was a liquidity crunch.

Marwari sub-agents around Byculla, even after the stipulated 3 months, had not returned the fares on tickets sold by them on behalf of East West (ticketing).They were supposed to return 92% of the ticket fare after keeping their 8% commission (a special allowance to subagents, only East West offered). Yet they didn’t return the monies due. The Banks, which had advanced the money to the Airlines, were threatening closure of East West accounts and recall the overdrafts.

This small group of Byculla agents, having sold the lion’s share of nationwide tickets, seemed to have a sinister plan to bring down East West - a new player in the Financial Capital of the nation. This went around the grapevine in where the memory of Dhirubai Ambani facing the Dalal Street share brokers’ challenge of 1982 was still fresh in everybody’s mind.


This is where ***** - another sibling of Thaky, becomes central to the situation. Fresh out of a Bombay college, street-smart and socially active among friends of his age, he was in charge of East West’s Byculla Office then*.

* (in his own words) … the Byculla office did more than all of our other 6 offices combined. 

(note : In 1986, East West ticketing offices had grown to 6 in Bombay (erstwhile Mumbai), one in Delhi, but still none in home state Kerala. Malayalis to the Gulf had to inevitably transit through Bombay from where ticket had to be issued to immigrants hailing from Chavakkad to Kasarakod).

There were wads and wads of currency … Riyals, Dollars, Pounds, Dhirams … lying around in the office, waiting to be accounted at the end of the day. Looked like a currency museum.  This daily fortune were brought by prospective travellers on Air India, Saudia, BA, Emirites … to buy tickets. Many of them could have been mules for contraband and illicit dealings ... could have been carriers for smuggling goods too.


* (in Peermuhammed's words) … … but, the times were such. Before the ’93 Bombay terror blasts, these very people’s bosses rubbed shoulders with politicians of every shade. Bollywood stars were proud to be seen at the dons’ parties. But every day, police officials from the nearby Byculla Station would come around with a list … to ask questions as to why tickets were issued to so and so criminals. Our answer always was, we cannot distinguish between customers … we can comply if you provide us with a watch-out list.

But could anybody help us recover funds from the subagents? Asks Peermuhammad, a practicing lawyer then.

Peermuhammad himself went to the office of the subagent at Byculla who owed East West the highest due (35 Lakhs).

* (in Peermuhammed's own words) … I pleaded with him and told him that I have to show the Banks at least a statutory legal action initiated against him, the defaulter.

In answer, from his table drawer, he pulled out a handgun, pointed at my head and said ‘go and tell them about this action of mine’. 

I beat a hasty retreat. So now you understand Byculla Muhammed Ali Road, where our office was located.

Then, some smalltime travelers frequenting the office met the Wahid brother in charge of Byculla.

“Huzoor, we heard about your problem

…don’t you know our ***** bhai (brother) can easily solve it.”

“*****, who?”

“अरे, वो जो यहां आता  .. अक्सर l (He who has been here quite a few times)”

It was told that Byculla area in Mumbai was a ***** turf.

***** (brother) bhai could enforce things which Govt. agencies can’t.

Since the situation had come to life or death for East West, the Wahid brother in charge of Byculla office got the tacit approval from his elder brothers.

On a Friday, after the noon namaz at Noori Masjid, he climbed up the stairs to an office which looked not much different from his own Byculla office. 
In the 3 minutes he explained the situation to a very attentive person called ***** - whom he recognized as one of his clients, he could notice calls coming from different parts of Bombay on 10 or 12 dedicated phone lines in that office. These hot-lines were attended by designated persons who communicated with politicians, factory owners, real estate developers and workers unions. The communications amounted to sorting out, and sometimes even creating, troubles.


On being hastily interrupted to attend an important call from manthraalay, ***** nonchalantly dismissed the worries of our ‘Wahid Bhai’ (Brother Wahid) … and bade him a quick farewell.

In 2 weeks, every single outstanding payment at Byculla was cleared. 
However, as Peermuhammad had come to know later, some of the subagents who were arm-twisted to pay up, had complained to the police.

Thus the first blot – that East West has underworld benefactors – was made. 

Page could guess what other collateral damages would have occurred down the years.

Though East West had no need for any underworld benefaction, the underworld needed favors –

free/ discounted airline tickets (AD100, AD75, AD25), persons travelling on false identity, … contraband parcels for delivery. When much of it were warded off, it caused antagonism. As the underworld, like hydra, split and multiplied into myriad factions, the demands and antagonisms from each grew.

Prakash Page, as everybody else in East West, knew of the smear campaign against them by their main business competitor - TEJ.

However  he didn't know  what the basis of Thaky's fatalist comment - during the Lowndes Square Garden walk, was.

Page intended to ask him about it that day. 13 November 2022. 

He had called Thaky to accompany him home (on the blue Benz) after office hours. But Thaky postponed their meet to the next day, as he was going home


That next day never came.

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