She's a pretty crusader

She's a pretty crusader

The New Year kickstarted on a fresh note for actor Dia Mirza. She has recently been appointed as the United Nations Environment Goodwill Ambassador for India. A resounding first for our country. And a first for Dia as she aligns herself in the same space with global stalwarts including Gisele Bündchen, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Katy Perry and Emma Watson.

"It has been a crazy week!" she enthuses as we meet in her office in suburban Mumbai (she owns the film production house Born Free Entertainment) over a cup of hot coffee. She has been the same graceful self over the years, handling work pressure with remarkable elan. At the moment, Dia is yet again busy straddling multiple assignments: Sanju, a biopic on actor Sanjay Dutt, is her latest movie project that releases in June 2018. Here, she plays the role of his wife, Maanyata. After winning hearts through her lovable performance in movies, including Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein (that marked her debut), Parineeta, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd., the charming, soft-spoken actor is set to unveil her next screen outing with signature panache after a long gap.

And yes, she is one of the very few beauty pageant winners who has leveraged her celeb wattage for serious humanitarian causes as well, way beyond her tenure as a beauty queen. She has been an ardent campaigner and a zealous environmentalist pouring in efforts for saving wildlife and forests (as the ambassador of the Wildlife Trust of India and as a member of the Sanctuary Nature Foundation), and has sponsored animals in zoos across the country, while working tirelessly towards the betterment of children in the health sector as the first Indian ambassador for Save the Children foundation.

Conversant with the length and breadth of the country (her erstwhile adventure travel and food documentary Ganga – The Soul of India got her to deeply explore this treasured realm), Dia grew up, with both her school and her family making her understand that our environment is the pivot of our existence. "The concept of need versus greed was ingrained in us right from the very start," she shares. "So, I am used to questioning myself each time I make a purchase, as in do I really need what I am buying?" shares Dia.

It has been an organic growth for her, from enjoying sunrise picnics with her folks as a child to planting trees, learning the names of butterflies and composting. Even in space-starved Mumbai, she has carved her own green patch in a lush terrace garden (in an apartment where she lives with her husband Saahil Sangha) that beckons about  18 beautiful parakeets at the crack of dawn, every day, amidst a cluster of other feathered friends and bees.

"My logic is that if I use something, I need to know where it is going to go," she says simply. Dia has been working towards reducing her carbon footprint in her own way by using locally grown and available goods, shunning plastic (using bamboo toothbrushes and glass bottles), segregating waste (including e-waste) and biodegradable options for sanitary health. Her perspective is to enjoy the abundance of nature for a healthier life.

"I believe convenience is a lie. We need to go back to basics to trim the health hazards that we have created for ourselves and our future generations. Environmental degradation and climate change have crossed dangerous levels and are impacting millions of people across the globe, now more than ever before. Therefore, it becomes our responsibility at this critical junction to cultivate some consciousness and compassion towards our environment, create awareness among people, mobilise their support in making lifestyle changes, and build sustainable innovations for sustainable development," she enthuses as she rallies support for the Swachh Bharat Mission.

"Honestly, I want to encourage people to make better choices in life. After all, every little bit counts. I strongly believe that I am a citizen of the planet first, and then belong to a nation."

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