Loved Sonam Kapoor in Neerja?
Now Read This REAL LIfe Account of a Pan Am Survivor
BY NAMRATA KARKHANIS Monday, 22 February 2016
The film, based on Bhanot’s life and starring Sonam Kapoor, has been immensely praised…
Loved Sonam Kapoor in Neerja? Now Read This REAL LIfe Account of a Pan Am Survivor
Ever since Sonam Kapoor starrer Neerja released, praises and applause have been pouring in on how well the film has been made and how proud the nation was of a hero like Neerja Bhanot. But certain factions felt that the film was more fiction than fact and some crew members felt that the film was wrong to the other flight attendants who were present on the hijacked flight.
However, Dr Kishore Murthy, a survivor from the ill-fated flight, recalled the full story to a leading portal and excerpts of his version of the story were recently published in Bollywood Life.
Dr. Murthy said, “I was on my way to the US to attend an international conference. We were to take a Pan Am Mumbai-Frankfurt-New York flight. It came as a surprise to us at Bombay airport when we were told the flight would first land at the Karachi International Airport and then proceed to Frankfurt. Prior to our departure, we had heard that all airports in Pakistan and India were on high alert as the Americans had bombed (Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar) Gaddafi’s palace (in retaliation for the Libyan involvement in the bombing of a Pan Am flight, which crashed at Lockerbie, Soctland). When we landed in Karachi, the aircraft was hijacked by Libyan terrorists but Neerja, who was well trained in anti-hijack measures, alerted the pilots and they escaped through the cockpit window."
There were approximately 400 passengers in the plane at the time and Neerja was communicating between the hijackers and the passengers and keeping everyone calm. As Dr Kishore adds to the leading website, “Neerja was communicating with the terrorists in broken Arabic. She was also translating their demands into English for the control tower. She was very brave and a true global citizen. The hijackers were looking for American passengers, so she hid their passports. Despite this, one Indian American, I don’t recall his name, got up and said he was American. He thought the terrorists were gunning for Indians because a majority of the passengers were Indians. He didn’t realise they were looking for Americans. The terrorists shot him right there and threw his body out of the plane.”
Quite a few people died in front Dr Kishore and he admits to being shocked by the atrocity and the violence. As he went on, “25-30 passengers were killed and a large number were injured.”
“The terrorists began screaming in Arabic. They made 300 passengers move to the front of the economy cabin. Four terrorists took position in four corners of the cabin and started shooting and throwing grenades. One person opened the door that led to the wing of the plane. I remember Neerja screaming to that passenger that he should use another escape route where there was an emergency chute. But he jumped from the wing to the ground and was, as a result, paralysed. It was very sad.”
Dr Kishore reveals, “They were probably were angry with Neerja because of the way she was thinking on her feet, marshalling the limited resources available to her and saving so many passengers. I was in the sixth row of the economy class and vividly remember how they shot her at point blank range in front of me. I was shocked to see her dying. One cannot express those feelings in words. Whenever I think of that moment, I wonder: Is this humanity? What has a 23 year old done to deserve this? She was only trying to help people.”
However, in reality the hijack continued for 20 hours. Towards the end, there was no food or water. Once the battery died, passengers were in total darkness. No one knew what was happening and in the end the people were saved. Dr Kishore mentions, “You know, Neerja was the first person who could have run away. She was trained and she knew what was happening. She was at the entrance of the aircraft when the terrorists boarded. She could have escaped like the pilots did, but she didn’t do it. That shows her guts and her inner strength. She was truly a great leader. This memory is so vivid that, even now, after 30 odd years I can’t forget her lovely face. She was an angel. If at all there is a God, for me it is her. We talk of God but no one has seen Him.Like me, there are 300 odd passengers who survived because of her. I feel this film on Neerja should have been made a long ago. This is the bravery we should be talking about.A young lady commanding a plane, negotiating with terrorists, keeping the passengers calm and maintaining her cool is the kind of bravery you rarely see in life. We came to know the terrorists were caught at Karachi airport and jailed in Pakistan for many years. After they escaped, they were caught by American forces in Bangkok and are still in jail. Neerja saved Indian and American lives that unfortunate day. I request the people of India to watch this film.”