Bollywood movie 'Neerja' saw Sonam Kapoor portray brave heart Neerja Bhanot on the silver screen. The movie brought back the memories of the real life hero, whose brave and selfless act was slowly fading away from our memories. Neerja was a flight attendant on Pan Am Flight 73 flying from Mumbai to the USA on September 5, 1986. On that fateful day, four armed men hijacked the plane in Karachi, Pakistan, targeting the Americans.
A valiant Neerja fought with courage and saved lives of several passengers. She could have been the first person to be out of the plane, but instead died trying to save children from the terrorists. Ahead of her death as well as the birth anniversary, here we recall some facts about Neerja Bhanot that can inspire you to be brave enough to fight against all odds in life.
Neerja was born in Chandigarh and raised in Bombay (later renamed Mumbai.) She studied at Bombay Scottish School and graduated from St. Xavier's.
Born after two sons, Neerja was the 'laado' (sweetheart) of the family and was fondly called so.
Neerja started modelling at a young age of 16 and endorsed many brands, including Binaca toothpaste, Godrej Besto detergent, Vaporex, Vicco Turmeric cream, etc. and emerged as a supermodel.
Neerja got married at a young age of 21 in 1985 and moved to Doha, Qatar. But she returned back home after two months due to the alleged dowry harassment from her husband and in-laws.
Neerja went to Miami, Florida to be trained as a cabin crew but returned as a purser (head of flight attendants).
When the hijackers of Pan Am Flight 73 asked Neerja to collect the passports of all the passengers so that they could identify the Americans, Neerja cleverly hid the passports of the Americans and saved their lives. She even alerted the pilots, opened the emergency exits and eventually sacrificed her life saving three children, merely 25 hours before her 23rd birthday.
One of the three American children Neerja was trying to save when she was shot is now a pilot. He was 7 then. He owes every second of his life to her and considers her as his role model.
Posthumously, Neerja became the youngest recipient of India's highest peacetime award for bravery, the Ashok Chakra Award. She was also posthumously given the Tamgha-e-Insaniyat (kindness to humanity award) in Pakistan.
For her courageous act, Neerja is remembered as 'The Heroine of Hijack' globally.
Neerja's brother Aneesh Bhanot conceptualized and published a coffee table book 'The Neerja I Knew" as a tribute to her. It consisted of several chapters written by people who knew her. Neerja Bhanot Chowk is named after her in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. Not to mention the 2016 movie Neerja, which introduced her to an all new generation.
She is an inspiration for one and all and a role model for many. Post your comments in the section below to let us know what you think about this brave soul.