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‘Pregnancy was my happiest moment; wasn’t going to let trolls turn it into a toxic slugfest’: Dia Mirza

The Indian Express logo The Indian Express 18-10-2021 Prerna Mittra
© Provided by The Indian Express

Dia Mirza is an absolute delight -- both on-screen with her acting prowess, and off-screen with her charismatic personality and the no-nonsense and endearing way with which she leads her life.

When the actor got married for a second time and decided to go all sustainable with her wedding attire and décor, it made news for all the right reasons. During an interview with another outlet, the United Nations Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador had talked about her no-waste ceremony, adding that she had worn a garment that she could "reuse and wear again and again".

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The 39-year-old, who recently welcomed her first child, a son, with husband Vaibhav Rekhi, talked about all this and much more in an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com. She opened up about her love for the environment, pandemic experience, pregnancy, and more. Excerpts:

What have you been doing in the pandemic to keep yourself productively busy?

My primary focus during the pandemic has been to stay healthy so that I can take care of everything to the best of my ability. I am also getting back to work and it is a new experience to organise my entire schedule, especially because of the lockdown and work from home. I am busy working remotely, reading scripts and organising my day around household chores.

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

Is there any must-do routine that you follow for your health and immunity?

I want to do all I can to be as healthy and stress-free as possible. I do my best to nurture my body and mind so that I can work more productively. Eating small meals during the day keeps my energy up. I do yoga, and am getting back to kick-boxing, cross-fit exercises and functional training as well. Hydration is also a must, so I am careful about that as well, and start my day with lukewarm water with lemon, followed by tomato or carrot juice to detox my body. I drink a lot of green tea and usually eat home-cooked meals that are loaded with vegetables.

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You have spoken widely about your love for the environment. Can you tell us some basic everyday things we can do for a sustainable future?

Some of the things we use at home are simple to source and make a huge difference to the environment. It is essential to choose bamboo toothbrushes and toxin-free cleaning agents; to say 'no' to single-use plastics and use biodegradable sanitary napkins for the health of the planet; segregation of waste and composting wet waste; bucket baths or short showers; conserving water and electricity; minimal use of air conditioning and carrying your own mugs, bottles and cutlery, while travelling can make a huge positive difference.

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

Your wedding was significant, in that it broke one too many stereotypes, including having a priestess. Was it all a conscious decision?

My childhood friend Ananya's wedding a few years ago was an eye-opener, because it was then that I saw her aunt and priestess Sheela Atta perform a ceremony that is usually associated with male priests. Then, as a wedding gift to Vaibhav and me, Ananya brought Sheela Atta to perform the ceremony for us. It was such a privilege to have her presence cement our bond forever. I feel women who birth children create so much beauty and bring so much meaning to so many lives with their tenderness and empathy, and they should not be cast away from the privilege to unite two people. There was no ‘kanyadaan’ and ‘bidaai’ in our wedding because we do not identify with the connotations inherent in these rituals. Our wedding reflected our beliefs, our love for each other, which we express via sharing equal rights and responsibilities.

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

Tell us about your sustainable wedding attire, and the thought behind choosing it.

I wanted a simple but resplendent outfit that I could also wear on special occasions. It doesn't seem logical to wear something so elaborate that you can never wear again. Simple wedding outfits are much more logical and so I went by my instinct and chose something that was not just beautifully crafted and timeless, but also wearable on many occasions.  Even my husband chose something which he could continue wearing with ease instead of an ornate outfit that would stay in the closet forever.

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

What does fashion mean to you? And what is your forever go-to outfit?

Over the years, fashion for me has been pared-down to a few essentials like comfort, ease, sustainability, simplicity and to some extent, fuss-free minimalism. I no longer accumulate stuff or go on shopping binges. My closet is edited to include organic cottons, handspun fabrics, Indian weaves, vintage textiles, repurposed outfits, classic and timeless pieces. I wore a Banarasi silk for my wedding as there was no desire to wear anything more elaborate.

I also repeat outfits because it seems wasteful and unrealistic to wear something new each time one makes a public appearance. I no longer buy fast fashion because of its wasteful industry practices and harmful impact on the environment. Some of my favourite brands, hence, are also sensitive to the environment and they include Anavila, Amit Aggarwal and Raw Mango. Maku is a brand which uses handspun khadi, natural dyes and is initiating a sustainable slow fibre movement. I also buy from artisanal groups that support local crafts. I have come to love feminine and earthy garments that float around me and make me feel light and free.

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

There was a lot of buzz around your pregnancy when you first announced it. How did you manage to stave off the negativity which came your way?

Negativity can be pervasive if you let it permeate your heart and mind. This was the happiest moment of my life and there was no way I was going to let a few trolls turn it into a toxic slugfest. I refuse to make this time about people who cannot see the purity and beauty of an expectant mother and instead want to shame her, mock or troll her. I have always lived by my own convictions and I will continue to do so with a lot of pride and joy. There must never be any shame attached to this beautiful journey of motherhood and as women we have every right to exercise our choices.

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

Whether we choose to be single moms or be in a marriage and start a family, is up to us. As a society we must get past the entrenched idea of what is right and wrong and instead ask ourselves why we are conditioned to respond in a certain way to issues that have nothing to do with us.

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Why do you think society continues to question a woman for her choices, and not so much a man?

Women are traditionally associated with compliance and men with authority. As a society, we have become so accustomed to seeing only men exude power -- and are in control of defining our present and future -- that we do not question the erasure of women's contribution to society.

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

A post shared by Dia Mirza (@diamirzaofficial)

Caroline Criado Perez's book 'Invisible Women' explores how women are subjected to even data bias and remain absent from collective consciousness. This is why a woman who exudes agency and power seems to be 'threatening' and is questioned for making choices that are only hers to make. This needs to change, because if we truly want to become an equal society, we need equal representation in all spheres.

Only six countries -- Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden -- have given women and men equal legal work rights, and it is unfortunate that discrimination exists against women at so many levels, be it via laws and policies, gender-based stereotypes, social norms or outmoded practices. We may have a long way to go to achieve full equality of rights and opportunities between men and women, but we can start by ensuring we include women in every conversation. And it is even more important we do not judge them for just existing and living their lives the way they want to.

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