Biography of Neerja Bhanot - the heroic flight attendant

This article is about a brief biography of Neerja Bhanot who was a dedicated flight attendant who saved more than 300 passengers on board during the hijacking incident, but could not save her own life. So, she is remembered globally today for her heroic deeds.

Everybody should know about the brave Neerja Bhanot who taught the world the true meaning of courage. Her utmost determination and her courage to stand for truth even during the most dire circumstances has made her immortal even today. She is the youngest recipient of Ashoka Chakra and also received awards from Pakistan and American Government posthumously.

Neerja Bhanot's personal life

Neerja Bhanot was born on September 7, 1963, in Chandigarh, Punjab to Harish Bhanot who was the correspondent of Hindustan times and Rama Bhanot. She was the youngest child to her parents as the couple were blessed with two boys before her. Then, she completed her education in St. Xavier Autonomous and then accepted the proposal of marriage.

She was married in 1985 and moved to Doha in Quatar with her husband, but returned to Mumbai to her parents just after two months due to dowry pressure imposed upon her and for ill-treatment. Then she decided to become a model and applied for many modeling assignments. Then she was featured in various ads such as Binaca, Krackjack, Vaporix, Besto, Forhans etc. While she was working as a model for different advertisements, she applied as a flight attendant for Pan Am 73 in 1985. After her training in Miami as a flight attendant, she was promoted as a head pursuer for Pam American World Airways.

Her sense of professionalism and death due to terrorist attacks

On September 5, 1986, Neerja Bhanot as a head pursuer announced about the schedule on board and welcomed the passengers warmly to be seated in their respective seats. The flight then took-off from Mumbai airport and then arrived to Karachi for short period to welcome some more passengers who were travelling to States. But on this ill-fated day, four terrorists from Abu-Nadal organisations, who were dressed as security guards, secretly entered the flight.

Neerja Bhanot, although become aware about the entry of such terrorists, she maintained the smile on her face and promptly informed the pilots and other crew members about such infiltration so that they would escape from danger. Although, she would abruptly escape from his perilous situation, she chose to stay on board and save the other passengers from this situation considering her sacred duty.

She hid the passports under the seats of the rubbish chute of the passengers as she believed that the Americans were the chief targets of the hijackers so that they could not identify the American and non-American passengers. Then later, she opened the emergency chute and released about 300 passengers on board by alerting them. She was seriously injured when she shielded three young American children from the bullets. She then fell off the chute seriously wounded and then, later on was carried to Jinnah hospital in Paskistan where she was declared dead.

Based upon her sense of utmost determination, love for duty, dedication and bravery, she received series of Awards from Indian government, Pakistan government and American government and they are Ashoka Chakra in 1987, Tamgha-e-Insaniyaat, Justic for Crime Award, Special Courage Award, civil aviation ministry and Bharat Gaurav Award.

The film 'Neerja' the thriller directed by Ram Madhavani and Sonam Kapoor starrer is based upon her life.


Author: Partha K.02 Mar 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 2

An informative article from the author. In this connection I would like to state that Neerja Bhanot's education started at Chandigarh. Later her family shifted to Bombay (now Mumbai). She completed her study at St. Xaviers' College, Mumbai. Initially she joined modelling and did some assignments. Later she had a broken marriage. Neerja Bhanot was the senior flight purser on Pan Am Flight 73 flying from Bombay to the United States, which was hijacked by four armed men on 5th September 1986 at Karachi airport in Pakistan. The aircraft was carrying 361 passengers and 19 crew members. The terrorists (belonging to Abu Nidal group) wanted to take the hijacked aircraft to Cyprus with the goal of freeing Palestinian prisoners in Cyprus.
The Pakistani authority at Karachi airport was blamed for its apathetic attitude during the hijacking incidence. In a stark contrast, Neerja saved more than 300 passengers due to her sense of duty and because of her cool mind. She received Ashok Chakra from the Government of India and Tamagha-e-Insaniyat from the Government of Pakistan.
However, I feel that the biopic of Neerja Bhanot directed by Ram Madhavani unnecessarily dramatized her noble life and deed.

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