Little did Neerja Bhanot know that she would save the lives of hundreds of passengers on-board the ill-fated PAN AM Flight 73 on September 5, 1986, when she used to model in the mid 80s. She was one of the most good looking models of that era who modeled for a variety of brands.
Neerja was born to Harish and Rama Bhanot on September 7, 1963. While her father was a journalist with Hindustan Times, her mother was a telephone operator. Born in Chandigarh, she studied for the first few years in the local Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School. When the family moved to Mumbai, she continued her education in Bombay Scottish and then did her graduation from St.Xavier’s College.
Her easy-going personality and photogenic looks landed her with a modeling career which she excelled in. However, she temporarily gave up her flourishing career for an arranged marriage. Neerja Bhanot got married in March 1985, she migrated to Gulf with her husband. Her parents had fixed the match based on a matrimonial ad on the newspaper. Post marriage, life turned out to be miserable for her, because her husband whose name was Naresh Mishra, was a sadist who enjoyed humiliating her. He also told her to stop modeling. She was also physically assaulted by her husband. The pressure of dowry and constant taunts almost crumbled her strength, when a phone call with her father resolved her desire to hold up her self-respect, leave her husband and come back to Mumbai.
Neerja while continuing with her modeling signed for the job of a flight attendant. She had to go to Miami for the training but instead of becoming a flight attendant, she got the job of a senior flight purser. She did a fabulous job, juggling her modeling career with that of an air hostess’. Her mother initially felt that it was not necessary for her daughter to work on an airplane and add extra stress to her busy life. Neerja however, loved what she was doing and was known to be professional to the core. In fact, on the night previous to the hijack, she had returned from an ad assignment, which went on till the wee hours of the night. She was also contemplating accepting the proposal of her friend Jaideep and getting married again. Here is the story of how Neerja saved the lives of 360 passengers on the flight.
Meanwhile, here is a look of some of the TV and print ads that Neerja worked on.
Neerja Bhanot – Ads