2016 Brussels terror attack survivor launches memoir in Marathi, English
Nidhi Chaphekar, the Indian survivor of the Brussels terror attack, has relaunched her memoir in English and Marathi. The book details her experiences during the attack and her recovery. Chaphekar, a former flight attendant, suffered severe injuries in the attack but has since resumed her career and become a motivational speaker. Her publisher plans to release the book in multiple countries, and Chaphekar is also seeking opportunities for a biopic.
Mumbai: Nidhi Chaphekar, the Indian face of the terror attack at Brussels international airport in March 2016, on Monday relaunched her memoir, Unbroken: A chronicle of the Brussels Terror Attack Survivor, in English as well as Marathi at a function at the Mumbai Press Club.
The book, which recounts her experiences during the fateful incident and her slow recovery, thereafter, was released online during the Covid lockdown in 2020, but was difficult to find it in bookstores, said the author.
“I am grateful to the Belgian consul general Frank Geerkens who suggested that the book must be released in bookstores. So, we launched the Marathi translation of the book along with the English version,” said Chaphekar.
Chaphekar was a flight attendant with Jet Airways, and her bleeding face was splashed across the front pages of global newspapers after the attack on March 22, 2016. The attack, orchestrated by two suicide bombers affiliated with the Islamic State, killed 32 people and injured more than 300.
Chaphekar suffered 25% burns, ruptured eardrums, damaged her right heel bone, and had to undergo seven grafts and 22 surgeries. Her body was broken, but her spirit remained unbroken, resilient. Two years later, she resumed her career in the Naresh Goyal-promoted Jet Airways, then the only private full-service airline.
She soon ran into another crisis. Jet Airways suspended its domestic and international services on April 17, 2019 after a series of aircraft groundings depleted the company’s finances. This plunged thousands of employees and their families into darkness. Chaphekar spearheaded group protests by the cabin crew to revive the airline even as the consortium of banks launched insolvency proceedings against Jet Airways.
As the insolvency process dragged on, several employees dipped into their provident fund money to survive and restart their careers. Chaphekar too weaned away and chose to pen her memoir; she also reinvented herself as a motivational speaker.
“During the Covid period, I received some requests to speak at different online forums. I did some motivational sessions for corporates. But I really wanted to share my experience with live audiences. I visited juvenile jails, schools, universities and it was an emotional and beautiful experience for me,” said Chaphekar.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through the dreadful experience I had, of being bedridden, becoming a responsibility to someone else, and burdening others,” she said, adding that she was able to come out of the situation with god’s grace and help from her parents, husband and children.
“My son and daughter pushed me to go beyond. So, I want people to read my book and take inspiration from my story. I want them to learn that you can give your best till your last breath,” noted Chaphekar, whose publisher Amaryllis plans to launch the book in the US, UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.
Going ahead, Chaphekar plans to work as a motivational speaker and interact with diverse audiences. Asked if she would return to the aviation sector again, Chaphekar said, “Once you join the sector, it is impossible to take up anything else. Flying is always a challenging job where you have to do so much within such a short time. At 45, I don’t think I can return to the cabin, but I would be happy to contribute to sector’s growth.”
Chaphekar’s speaking assignments are keeping her busy at the moment. On December 20, she is slated to address over 50 chief executive officers in Pune.
“Speaking at such forums is a challenge and unexpected questions open up new perspectives for me to delve into,” said Chaphekar, who is on the lookout for producers and directors to make a biopic based on her story.