Why Everyone Should Know ‘Hijack Heroine’ Neerja Bhanot’s Story
Neerja Bhanot. (Photo: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWSBZYGcsYc">YouTube/Jimmy Bennett</a>)
Neerja Bhanot. (Photo: YouTube/Jimmy Bennett)

Why Everyone Should Know ‘Hijack Heroine’ Neerja Bhanot’s Story

Neerja as the Hijack Heroine

She died before the millenial generation was born. On September 5, 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked on the tarmac of Karachi airport by four armed terrorists.

While the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer abandoned the aircraft and passengers, Neerja took charge of the passengers and the crew.

According to reports, she hid American passports after realising they were the main target of the terrorists. When the armed men began to fire, Neerja managed to fling open the emergency door and asked passengers to flee. As she shielded three children, Neerja was hit by several bullets and succumbed to her injuries.

Neerja posthumously became the first and only woman recipient of the Ashok Chakra, India’s highest civilian award for bravery.

Neerja Bhanot. (Photo: Facebook/TheNeerjaBhanotPage)
Neerja Bhanot. (Photo: Facebook/TheNeerjaBhanotPage)

Bhanot, was already a familiar face by 1986, as she had begun appearing regularly in ads and commercials by then. After her tragic death she was dubbed the ‘Heroine of the Hijack’ as dozens of passengers survived thanks to her.

Now Bhanot’s life will be recreated on the silver screen by Sonam Kapoor, who recently revealed the “first look” of the movie. 

Neerja as the Striking Model

Neerja came across as a radiant model with a lot of screen presence, yet with the girl-next-door look. She appeared in several TV commercials and print ads.

Neerja in a print advert (Photo: Facebook/TheNeerjaBhanotPage)
Neerja in a print advert (Photo: Facebook/TheNeerjaBhanotPage)
Neerja on a magazine cover (Photo: Facebook/TheNeerjaBhanotPage)
Neerja on a magazine cover (Photo: Facebook/TheNeerjaBhanotPage)

Neerja’s Steely Spirit

Neerja Bhanot had settled in the middle-east with her husband following arranged marriage in March 1985. But within two months of her marriage, she returned home to Mumbai, after she was pressured over dowry demands.

It is after her marriage turned sour that Neerja started modelling and became a flight attendant at the iconic Pan Am airlines, where she died in the line of fire.

Neerja Bhanot (Photo: Facebook/TheNeerjaBhanotPage)
Neerja Bhanot (Photo: Facebook/TheNeerjaBhanotPage)

Neerja, Loving Daughter

Born to middle class parents, Harish and Rama Bhanot on September 7, 1963, in Chandigarh, Neerja grew up in Mumbai when her family moved there. There, she studied at Bombay Scottish school and graduated from St. Xavier’s College.

The parents used to call their darling daughter Laado.

The Tribune reports that Neerja’s mother was concerned when her daughter had to sign up for a anti-hijacking course as part of training. She was so worried that she even asked Neerja to leave her job as it was too dangerous. To which Neerja is supposed to have replied, if all mothers think like that, what would be the fate of this country?

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