This is a story that we are extremely proud to share on Mums and stories platform.
Neerja Bhanot was working as an air hostess with Pan Am Airways in 1986 when she was unfortunately killed by the hijackers while she was saving passengers on that flight. This was just a few hours before her 23rd birthday.
After holding passengers and crew members’ hostage for close to 17 hours, the terrorists opened fire, yet Neerja stayed on the plane to help passengers escape. She was shot while shielding three children from the bullets being fired by the terrorists.
A movie is soon going to be released in the country based on this awe inspiring story. Neerja’s family is even getting prepared for a book launch to be scheduled for release this month.
In a telephonic interview, Aneesh Bhanot, Neerja’s brother shares a few insights to this sensitive story on his late mother Rama Bhanot, a few glimpses of childhood, on Neerja and life that continued after her death.
“Neerja, me and brother Akhil had a normal childhood. She was a pampered child to a large extent as she was the only daughter but we brothers too had a good childhood. It so happened that we all had to shift to Mumbai from Chandigarh and my father was working in the Hindustan Times in Mumbai.
Neerja finished her school and then was pursuing her college when a photographer came to her outside her campus and asked if her photograph can be used for a particular assignment. It was just the beginning of her modeling career. After a couple of months, my father saw a matrimonial advertisement of what seemed to be a good alliance for her.
But it soon turned out to be a nightmare for this independent woman who went through a lot and the husband’s family was asking for dowry. Somehow she managed to come back and tell us that she definitely didn’t want to go back. She even had her modeling career that she had begun here.
As a mother, my mom backed her decision and eventually together as a family we wanted her to lead a good life. Her husband had even tried to de-motivate her completely on her self-worth and she wanted to establish herself as a proven individual in her career.
Soon after she landed herself with a job in Pan Am. Once after coming back from a training session from London, she was telling my mother on a simulated training session, how the cabin crew were taught as to what required to be done by the airline team in case of a hijack or a terrorist attack and my mother, being a mum said to her to run away, just in case if this ever happened.
Neerja just replied that if all moms thought like her then the situation in the country would be bad for others as an example.
When we got to know as a confirmed news that the airline was indeed hijacked, my mother just told all of us ‘She is not going to come back’.
People today are talking about Neerja’s bravery, sacrifice her duty towards the job, passengers safety and the family the way we dealt with it. My mum had to emotionally deal with a lot of burden. Whether it was me, my brother or my father all went back to work after a few days but my mother faced the situation of being alone at home and she want through a lot of trauma before coming out of it.
She was obviously impacted by the circumstances. Yet I would say that after a few years she was open to talk of Neerja’s death, inspire school children on her bravery and about everything.”
Neerja a movie starring Shabana Azmi, Sonam Kapoor is releasing on February 19th 2016.
As a senior flight attendant, Neerja saved many lives during the hijack of Pan Am Flight 73 in 1986. The young woman was posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra, India’s highest civilian award for bravery. The
Neerja Bhanot Pan Am trust has been involved in selecting brave women who show grit and determination in adversity and are awarded this special award in memory of Neerja Bhanot.
Mums and stories wishes Neerja’s family the very best in building more initiatives that in memory of Neerja and her mum.
Seen in the photographs, Neerja Bhanot, her mother Rama Bhanot and Neerja, also fondly known as Laado in her family with her brothers, Aneesh Bhanot and Akhil Bhanot