48 hours into the glorious release of the much awaited #RamMadhvani film Neerja – I find myself writing about it. This is not me trying to review the movie. What can I say that others haven’t already? I’m attempting to write here what no one else can articulate – the impact of this braveheart’s story on my soul.
Shamefully I must begin by admitting that I was totally unaware of Neerja Bhanot’s inspiring story. It caught my attention just about the time when the film venture caught the Indian media’s attention (a few months back???). So I googled her & she gripped me never to let go. The more I read, the more links I kept clicking on in search of more literature on her, and the deeper I kept getting involved. Watching the very real on-screen portrayal converted involvement to inspiration to put on record, what her valiant life teaches me.
Neerja Bhanot is (and i consciously say IS) an ordinary woman who displayed extraordinary compassion and guts. She was raised no differently from a lot of us with very typical, relatable and ordinary middle class values. As Rama Bhanot (in the voice of Shabana Azmi) said, there is no training that any parent gives their child that says – “take a bullet & sacrifice your life when death stares you in the face and you have all but a slim chance to escape it.” Neerja didn’t fight Palestinians. Neerja didn’t save Indians or Pakistanis or Americans or British or any specific race or nationality. She fought against wrong and fought for humanity.
Most of us won’t ever (I pray) be faced by a situation as terribly challenging as she was, but her valour is a lesson to every human being. A lesson to act with the identity of a human being first and with the identity of ‘x nationality’ later, cause in the end you are defined by your humanity, not by geography.
The biggest gift she gave to anyone besides the 2nd life she gave to 359 people on-board Pan Am 73 (by the way, all, people she had never met and would never live to meet again) was to her family. To honour the principles she was brought up on even at the highest cost. “Bahaadur Bachcha Kaun…?” – would the answer have changed, even if she had chosen to be the first to slide down the emergency exit in her last horrific minutes? No. Nor would her instinct of self preservation have been held against her. But in doing what she did, she redefined “bahaaduri” in a way her family would not have envisaged. How hugely they paid. Pride & honour vs. never seeing your child again and they didn’t even have the liberty to choose. She chose for them. I doubt she believed she was on a mission to prove anything to anyone, yet what a fine tribute to the parents whose daughter she is.
Most of us will never ever have to worry about paying the highest homage to the values we are brought up on. Our integrity to those norms will probably never be tested like hers were. Yet, there will be an opportunity for each of us to allow our parents to be very proud of us and I hope we are all able to realize it for them like Neerja did for her own.
Ask yourself this. Can you truthfully predict how you would react, if you suddenly found yourself at gun-point? Too theoretical and speculative for the imagination right? But hold. There’s an inspiration to draw from the 2 days shy of 23 year old life of this woman and her longest last 17 hours, and that is to LOVE (whatever the subject of love may be) WITHOUT A FENCE.
Neerja said “I love my job” and displayed how much she did. They said “She loved life” and indeed she did. No mere number. 359 others over her 1 own.