Face of Brussels terror attack Nidhi Chapekar wants to reform terrorists, even though she can't forgive them
Jet Airways flight attendant Nidhi Chaphekar had become the face of the Brussels airport terror attack in March 2016 after a picture of her from the attack site went global.
Dar ke aage jeet hai. That's a tagline that Mountain Dew perhaps popularised with its numerous incredulous advertisements. For some though, the line is not just a smart piece of carefully crafted words but something in which they see real meaning. And one such person is Nidhi Chaphekar.
"I am sure that rules are made to make things better. Human beings must be messiahs of kindness. I would try to change how they treat people in prison. We should try to get a smile on people's face. I can't forgive the terrorists, but help reform them. Revenge is not the answer, love must be taught," Chaphekar told CNN-News18 in an interview.
Had one not been from the list of her family and friends, very few would have known about Chaphekar, the Jet Airways flight attendant who became the face of global terror after she miraculously survived the deadly blasts at the Zaventem Airport in Brussels on 22 March this year. More so, after the picture that was shot by photojournalist Ketavan Kardava after the attack clearly showed her in a state of shock.
Emerging from a state of extreme physical and mental trauma, today Chaphekar is a better person than she was. And this is what she had to say, "I have always been a very positive person. I take things as challenges. I am a more positive person after the terror attack. I have become more easy going, life is too short."
These lines of optimism have not come easy if the clock is rewound to the fateful March day. The Jet Airways stewardess was horrified when she was shown her own picture at the Brussels hospital where she was admitted. A lurking fear soon gripped her if she would be acceptable to her near and dear ones again.
"I was afraid of being accepted after seeing my face (after the blast). It was like there was a blast on your face. How am I going to do my job? How will my kids accept me?" an emotional Chaphekar told CNN-News18 about the most challenging period of her life so far.
Like it did many others, the picture that Kardava had clicked stunned her too. But beyond the gory details that froze the moments of blood and shredded clothes together, the picture also had a hidden message to her family.
"I was stunned to look at my picture in the newspapers. My face was in agony, in pain. It was like there was no life which is being covered. All other aspects were shown but the human factor," Chaphekar told CNN-News18. "It was also a message to my family that I was alive," she said.
The bloody "boom" she heard in March will perhaps ring in her ears forever. However, beyond the deeply distressing experience she endured in the last six months, the Jet Airways staffer discovered the true meaning of life literally escaping from the jaws of death. She discovered love, affection, goodness and the power of prayer.
"We have different cultures. Gods may be different but prayers are the same," Chaphekar said.
The perfectionist she is, Chaphekar is already "missing work, (and) can't wait to get back." But she has also realised, life is not about work alone, it has to be interspersed with some mauj masti (fun).
"My kids are proud of my survival story," she said.
Until she taxis again on a new flight to another destination, life has already taken off from a different runway for the better.
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