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Remembering Neerja Bhanot and your judgmental attitude!

7th September is the birth anniversary of Neerja Bhanot.

Those who don’t know Neerja Bhanot, she is the first woman and the youngest recipient of India’s highest peacetime gallantry, the Ashok Chakra award. She’s also the recipient of several other accolades from the government of Pakistan and the United States.

Neerja Bhanot was heading the crew onboard PanAm Flight 73. The flight was hijacked by terrorists during a stop-over in Karachi, Pakistan. Neerja was shot while helping passengers escape through the emergency exits.

According to a surviving passenger, "She was guiding the passengers to the emergency exit. That is when the terrorists were firing constantly fearing a commando attack. They saw Neerja relentlessly trying to help three unaccompanied children, among others, out and that is when they caught her by her ponytail and shot her point blank."

Neerja Bhanot is a hero who selflessly saved the life of so many passengers including children without thinking of her own safety! Reading about Neerja Bhanot still gives me goosebumps. What a divine soul. This is the true essence and meaning of feminism!

We know that social media is both a blessing and an abomination. I generally don’t read nor react to hate comments on Social media because everyone has the freedom of voicing their opinions. But a hate comment for a hero like this was surprising!

What caught my attention was the level of the comment. Here, we are talking of a girl who was just 23 years old and saved almost all the passengers from death and died instead! But this comment was from another woman who claimed that Neerja is not a hero because she made the life of her husband and in-laws a living hell.

This is the attitude of social media users. They judge people and comment on anybody’s life just as though they know these people personally and have every right to spread rumors!

Firstly, who gives you the right to judge anyone? If you have an opinion about somebody, you state it as “In my opinion..” It is also absolutely necessary that you also state that this is your opinion and not verified facts.

Not that your opinion matters to them or will change, their perception or for that matter anybody’s perception. But you just get satisfaction out of judging people, body shaming them or passing lewd comments.

I will tell you a story; I grew up in Mumbai(Bombay then) and when I was about 14, on a vacation to my hometown in Kerala I was eve teased all the way from the store I had gone to till I got a public vehicle. And why? It was because I was wearing jeans. Those boys whistled and booed at me as I was running in public. Not one person helped me and I heard people saying things like, “she asked for it”, “why is she wearing jeans”, “couldn’t she wear something more decent”. Most of them from women. I was covered from neck to toe, but this is what happened to me.

Today this scenario has moved online. Not just girls but everyone is cyber bullied. You hide behind a screen and say hurtful things in comments and send vulgar, disturbing messages in private. We share these experiences and laugh it off in our girls Whatsapp groups.

We can laugh this off too. But this has to stop somewhere. How do we instill this thought inside each one of us that we have no right to judge others. What anybody does in their personal life is not your business. They do not need your permission to do anything! And in this case what Neerja Bhanot did in her private life is none of your business and it doesn’t change or affect the fact that she is a hero.

We are in 2020. How much longer will people be judged on how they dress or treat their partner and in-laws? What about the fact that they have studied and achieved so much professionally? What about the fact that they selflessly died for their country or saved people they don’t even know personally?

Neerja Bhanot could have been the first one to escape unhurt from that flight but chose to stay back and ensure the safety of her passengers. Who cares how she was with her in-laws? I know I can’t change everyone but if this makes even one person rethink their character, it will make the world a better place to live person at a time. Let the change begin with you.


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