Renowned bharatnatyam dancer Subhashini Vasanth will receive the Neerja Bhanot award this year for her services towards creating a support system for the well-being of the families of jawans who died serving the nation. She will receive the award on January 13 (Wednesday) at St Stephen’s School.
Subhashini is the founder trustee of Vasantharatna Foundation started in 2007, in the memory of her husband Colonel Vasanth Venugopal who was awarded the Ashok Chakra posthumously in 2008 after he died fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.
The foundation provides academic scholarships, conducts empowerment programmes and outbound learning programmes for both women and children belonging to the families of martyrs.
Subhashini says, “While I was dealing with my own loss, I realised that there are many areas in which a person needs support at such times and that there were so many other families who go through the same grief that I was experiencing. Gradually, I decided to reach out to the wives of martyrs and help them with personal, emotional issues.” The foundation started work in Karnataka and has touched the lives of around 80 such families till now. Backed by team members Shakuntala Bhandarkar, Salma Gauri, Lakshmi and Smita Srinivasan, Subhashini desires to start a master’s programme scholarship for the children of martyrs.
Talking about Neerja Bhanot and her brave sacrifice, she says, “I don’t think any of us can do what Neerja did. I see her with equal respect and pride as my husband.” On being asked how she remembers her husband, she says that he was a ‘simple guy who just wanted to do his duty and had a passion for the army’.
She has also co-authored her husband’s biography, with Veena Prasad, titled ‘Forever Forty’. “The book is a collection of memoirs for my two daughters who were aged seven and 10 at the time of their father’s death. I want them to know their father as he really was,” she says. Subhasini also plans to re-launch the book next month. She wants to add the award money to a fund for memorial awards to children of martyrs for all-round excellence.
About the award
The Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust has been set up in memory of flight attendant Neerja Bhanot, who made the ultimate sacrifice in performing her duty with unprecedented dedication to her fellow humans. The trust is keeping the memory of Neerja alive and has instituted two awards of Rs 1,50,000 each:
Award A (Rs 1,50,000): The award goes to an Indian woman subjected to social injustice who faces the situation with guts and grit and then makes a success of life by assisting other women in similar social distress.
Award B (Rs 1,50,000): The trust honours an airline crew member on a worldwide basis who acts beyond the call of duty in a difficult situation.