“Do your duty, come what may. Never tolerate any injustice and never compromise on self-respect”
Neerja Bhanot (7 September 1963- 5 September 1986) was an Indian model and a senior flight purser for Pan American World Airways based in Mumbai, India. She died a heroic death while saving passengers from the heavily armed terrorist on board of Pan Flight 73, carrying 361 passengers and 19 crew members which was hijacked by terrorists during a stopover in Karachi, Pakistan on September 5, 1986. Acting quickly she alerted the cockpit crew who evacuated the plane. The passengers on the plane hailed from different countries but the primary targets were the Americans on board. When Neerja was asked to collect the passports of the passengers, she managed to hide their passport thus saving the lives of 39 Americans on board. When Neerja was asked to collect the passports of the passengers, she managed to hide their passport thus saving lives of 39 American passengers out of 41.
After 17 hours, the hijackers opened fire and set off explosives. Bhanot opened the emergency door and helped the passengers escape. She could have escaped first but being the senior-most staff on the hijacked aircraft she took charge. She was shot while shielding three American children from the terrorists’ bullet being fired. She was recognizing internationally as ‘the heroine of the hijack’ and posthumously, she became the youngest recipient of Indian’s highest peacetime award for bravery, the Ashoka Chakra Award. She is the first woman recipient of the Ashoka Chaka award. “Her loyalties to the passenger of the aircraft distress will forever be a lasting tribute to the finest qualities of the human spirit”- Ashoka Chakra citation. She posthumously received the ‘justice for crime award’ from the United States Government as part of the ‘Annual Crime Right Week’ and the ‘Tamgha-e-Pakistan’ from Pakistan. In 2004, the Neerja Bhanot stamp was introduced to commemorate her. Bhanot House of Austrey School is named after her. Neerja a biographical Bollywood film depicting her life and heroism starring Sonam Kapoor was released in 2016.
Life lesson– As appropriately said, “Courage is grace under pressure”. Winners like her show courage during the most difficult time. They don’t run away from problems or crises. They stay strong and relish them with courage and confidence. They try to prevent it from coming back n the future. During a tough time, they don’t play the blame game or victim card. They accept responsibility for everything in life and live their life queen size.