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It is the birth anniversary of India's braveheart, Neerja Bhanot, on 7 September. The flight attendant sacrificed her life while saving passengers on Pan Am Flight 73, which was hijacked by terrorists during a stopover in Karachi, Pakistan, on 5 September 1986, two days before her 23rd birthday.
She was shot by the terrorists while helping the passengers escape through the emergency exit. Her life and heroism inspired the biopic Neerja and her role was essayed by Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor. She had put up a picture of Neerja in remembrance of her death anniversary and had tweeted saying, "Her life was a gift to us all. #RememberingNeerjaBhanot".
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A post shared by Sonam K Ahuja(@sonamkapoor) on
Here are some lesser known facts about Neerja Bhanot.
1. Neerja Bhanot was the daughter of Rama Bhanot and Harish Bhanot. She was born in Chandigarh, India and brought up in Mumbai, India.
2. Neerja completed high school from Bombay Scottish School and graduated from St. Xavier's College.
3. Before becoming an air hostess, Neerja was a famous model and appeared in many print and TV commercial advertisements. She was just 16, when she was first spotted for a modelling assignment.
4. At the age of 21, Neerja got married and after marriage, she moved abroad with her husband. She came back to India because her marriage didn't work out.
5. She was a cheerful, loving person and her family members lovingly called her 'Laado'.
6. Neerja applied for the position of a flight attendant with Pan Am and upon selection, she went to Miami, Florida for training as a flight attendant and returned as a chief flight attendant.
7. She was shot only hours before her 23rd birthday.
8. She received the Ashoka Chakra Award, India's most prestigious gallantry award for bravery, posthumously.
9. She is the youngest recipient and the first woman recipient of the Ashoka Chakra Award.
10. In Ghatkopar, Mumbai, there's a square named after her called Neerja Bhanot Chowk.