COVER |  'No perfect way to be a mom': Dia Mirza on motherhood, changing priorities and success  ahead of Mother's Day

This Mother’s Day, Dia Mirza tells us why it takes a whole village to raise a child, grooming kids as climate warriors, and debunks the idea of perfect mothers
Dia Mirza
Dia Mirza

Dia Mirza is the quintessence of poise and elegance. Her artistry is a vibrant canvas of being a beauty pageant winner, model, actress, producer, climate activist, and above all, a humanitarian at heart. The Hyderabad born actress has been captivating audiences ever since her debut in the cult-favourite film Rehnaa Hai Tere Dil Mein (2001). Later, she starred in blockbusters like Dus (2005), Parineeta (2005), Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006), Sanju (2018), and many more. However, she faced a rough patch in her acting career when she was yearning for substantial roles that were not coming her way for quite some time. Nonetheless, a perceptive Dia has conditioned herself to let go of the trappings of success and perfectionism that she sought in her 20s and 30s. Now in her 40s, she draws her sense of purpose from the unwavering priority she has set in life — to make the world a better place. She is more inclined towards working on projects that evoke the collective consciousness of society with sustainable solutions. And she is already on her way — from being an ambassador for both the Wildlife Trust of India and the Swachh Saathi initiative under the Swachh Bharat Mission, an advocate for the Kids For Tigers program by Sanctuary Asia's Tiger Conservation to giving her voice to Asia’s first animatronic empathy-building elephant called Ellie to herald the message of spreading kindness towards wildlife, and working in films like Bheed that addresses the socio-economic divide of society — Dia is here to create a meaningful difference. In personal life, the 41-year-old is a devoted mother to her two-year-old son Avyaan, and a teenage daughter, Samaira. As we approach Mother’s Day, we had the privilege of speaking with this multi-talented star about the joys and challenges of motherhood, her unwavering commitment to the environment, and her dedication to raising her toddler with an organic lifestyle. Dia also opened up about the difficulty of dealing with anxiety while being away from her child, working. She generously shares her words of wisdom for working mothers, emphasising the need for family support in raising a child, and lots more. Excerpts:

Dia Mirza
Dia Mirza

What suggestions do you have for young moms who have just embraced motherhood?
All new moms need to know that it is okay to ask for help, to not know all the answers, and to make mistakes. Motherhood is a blessing, but it can also be demanding and stressful. Surround yourself with a supportive network of family and friends and take care of your mental and physical health. Take one day at a time; and do not be too hard on yourself. Remember, there is no perfect way to be a mom; so trust your instincts and enjoy these special moments with your little ones.

Do you feel anxious while being away from your son?
Like all working mothers, I too feel anxious when I have to travel for extended periods. When I am away from home, I am always updated about everything that Avyaan is doing. He understands now that Mama sometimes has to go away to do something important, and he welcomes me back with a big, bright smile. It takes a village, as they say, to raise a child, and motherhood has made me even more acutely aware of the challenges faced by women who don’t have the help that they need to juggle work and domestic responsibilities.

Tell us about the lifestyle changes you have made to your routine since Avyaan came into your life. Having Avyaan has been absolutely lifechanging. My heart is bigger, my days busier, and he is a masterful teacher from whom I learn every day to be in the moment and just be restful and joyful. My lifestyle choices, however, have remained constant, as even before I became a mother, environmental issues were important to me and were reflected in my choices. Now sustainability is also guiding the choices I make for my son. Be it toys, diapers, clothing or linen, everything I choose for him is chemicalfree, organic and safe. I am also investing in green businesses because I want to promote eco-sensitive initiatives. And yes, I am working even harder to raise climate questions and seek change in the way we collectively consume natural resources. I want my children to inherit a healthy planet.

Dia with Avyaan
Dia with Avyaan

Any of your son’s talents that you’ve discovered lately? How are you nurturing them?
Avyaan can already identify close to 300 birds and animals because he has always been surrounded by nature — something that mirrors my own childhood experiences. We love spending time together in the garden and on our balcony, and he expresses deep appreciation for not just the visiting birds and butterflies but for every aspect of nature. He also loves music and stories, and maybe he will take all of these interests and create a creative movement to protect the planet that he has inherited. Children should be allowed to explore and discover their interests at their own pace.

How do you practice sustainability at home?
It has been my effort to weave sustainability into every aspect of my life. I travel with my own water bottle, coffee cup, and cutlery. As an actor and producer, I am working towards resource-sensitive sets where water and energy waste are minimal. I am also very careful to use only organic baby care products for my son and am investing in brands that are creating sustainable products for children. At home, we use earthfriendly cleaning products, stay clear of single-use plastics, and segregate and compost our waste. Our balcony and garden, too, have become a biodiverse space. I have switched to a largely plantbased diet, and I wear and promote slow fashion.

Posing in poise
Posing in poise

How do you take care of your mental well-being and what do you do to unwind?
I have always maintained that meditation is a superpower that everyone can have access to. Whether I am in the middle of a hectic shoot or just starting my day at home, I make time to unplug my mind and meditate. Reading also rejuvenates me, and curling up with a good book is a joy like no other! Yoga keeps me in touch with my body, and it is one of the gentlest ways to take care of yourself. Spending time with my children, husband, and mom at home or being in close proximity to nature brings me immense happiness and peace. It grounds me like nothing else can.

Tell us about your beauty regimen and fashion staples on a regular day.
Rather than a regimen focused on beauty, I have a self-care routine that makes me feel good inside and out. I use organic brands, homemade masks and make it a point to hydrate myself no matter how busy the day is. As soon as I wake up, I start the day with two glasses of water and five walnuts soaked in water overnight. The first 15 minutes of my day are sacred, and I use this time to ground myself with pranayama and meditation and prepare myself for the day ahead. Fitness is also an essential part of my daily routine, and I alternate between yoga, cardio, weight training, swimming, and pilates. As for fashion staples, I love classic pieces that are versatile and can be dressed up or down. For formal occasions, I find myself gravitating towards a well-tailored suit or a sari with a statement accessory. I also prioritise comfort, so I opt for breathable fabrics and comfortable shoes that I can wear all day.

How has your outlook on life changed while transitioning from your 30s to your 40s?
The transition has been organic, and each phase has revealed to me a new facet of my being. As a mom, I have become very protective of my time. I focus only on the essentials while letting go of all peripherals. I am more conscious now of the things that truly matter to me and have learned to prioritise them. Motherhood has also taught me the importance of being present and cherishing the lessons that my son and daughter teach me every day. I am a lifelong learner. I have let time show me the true meaning of self-acceptance and the futility of perfectionism. Most importantly, I strive every day to create joy, meaning, and purpose in my life rather than worrying about the optics of success.

The climate warrior
The climate warrior

What’s the most challenging part of being in cinema in the present age?
To always ensure that you’re using your reach for the greater good! An artiste should stay true to not just their craft but to their sense of purpose. With the advent of social media and digital platforms, there is also a constant pressure to be visible, which I try to circumvent by engaging in conversations about issues that I am passionate about — themes that bring people together as a whole.

You were recently part of the social-drama film Bheed. What made you say yes to the project?
I did Bheed for my children. This is a film that I want them to see as a reminder that we should not let our privilege divide us from each other. Additionally, I have also had a long association with Anubhav Sinha, and I have deeply admired his evolution as a creator who does not just want to entertain but has something important to say. Bheed depicts how the pandemic deepened socio-economic inequities and led to the de-humanisation of so many of our fellow citizens. I wanted to be a part of it because it was Anubhav’s attempt to visualise unimaginable human suffering that we have already forgotten. The fabric of society and life itself is woven by human synergy, and the film demonstrated that beautifully. As a mom, my character in the film resonated deeply with me, and we can only imagine the trauma of those who could not reach their loved ones during lockdown.

How do you re-assess the idea of success?
Success has many meanings, and for me, it has never been an end in itself. I want to use my voice to make a difference. Fortunately, in the past few years, I have been offered characters that I truly resonate with — Shivani Fonseca in Thappad; playing a part in the series Call My Agent Bollywood where I get to counter a toxic and ageist beauty culture; playing Kainaaz Akhtar in the series Kaafir who challenges the politics of hate; and a role in the film Gray which was about consent. As an actor, my roles need to challenge me and allow me to explore different aspects of my craft. I am also drawn to strong female characters. I am thrilled to play parts that celebrate interesting, articulate, and self-willed women. As a producer, I want to tell human stories that also address social justice, environmental issues, and more.

Twitter: @RanaPriyamvada

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