Celebrating Songkran with Dia Mirza, Nara Thai and progressive campaigns for a better India
In conversation with the actor, producer and activist about latest her social undertakings, a red sauce spaghetti she swears by and everything in between
Some know her as an actor and model, others as a producer, but for most Dia Mirza is that indomitable spirit and one of the few voices from Bollywood to actually use her social cache to impact change in the real world. From environmental issues to those concerning the welfare of children, this trailblazer has dedicated herself to a number of causes. Take for example, her undertaking as a five-year-long ambassador for Save the Children, where she supports the Dream Accelerator Campaign which seeks to bolster the future of children with the potential of becoming changemakers. Mirza spoke about the initiative at a popular Mumbai restaurant—Nara Thai—on the occasion of Thai New Year, Songkran. The diner, popular for their Thai cuisine, is also trying to do their bit through their long-running Half Glass Full Campaign, where the meaning of 'a glass half-filled' has been turned on its head to convey being filled with opportunity. We caught up with Mirza to understand what drives her towards social change and climate conservation, and what exactly she is eating, when she is not doing one of those two things.
Edited excerpts from an interview.
How has your 5 year (and counting) journey been with Save the Children?
These five years with Save The Children have been deeply gratifying, inspiring and motivating. But I think, more than anything else, educational. I have learnt about the plight of the lives of children who live on the streets and been privy to the enormity of the problems that they face.
Can you shed light on some of the things you have learnt, during the course of this association?
I think the significant learning here has been discovering how incredibly resilient children are. They can thrive in the most extraordinary circumstances with a little bit of help and support. And that, to me, has been a revelation. When I think about Saliha, I think about Poonam, and about all these children that I get to interact with. And I see how they have improved their own lives, while putting in the effort to improve that of so many others around them. I also saw that when we manage to aid young children, we give them the chance to learn, grow, expand their horizons and seek better opportunities. The one thing that we've seen is that each and every one of them has tried to become mentors within their own community, which has helped us reach out to many more young children and that's downright amazing.
What are some of the results, no matter big or small, you wish to see as an outcome of the Dream Accelerator project?
The most interesting thing about the project is that the outcomes are unique to each child. These children have different aspirations, and by engaging with the program, each child is able to further their own purpose and ambitions, and fulfil them in a way that's relevant. The program also aids in widening the reach of everything that they're doing and make it sustainable. For instance, there is Poonam, who is trying to make education around menstrual hygiene accessible to more people. Her efforts are sustained by the project. Most often, what we've noticed is that the children seem to have a deep desire for communities. And that for me is the most exciting part about the Dream Accelerator project.
With the month-long collaboration between Nara Thai and Save te Children going strong along with their #HalfGlassFull campaign, what are some of the benefits the project has seen?
I just love the fact that Nara Thai has collaborated with Save the Children and have chosen to celebrate the Thai New Year or Songkran in this wonderful way. I think every customer at the restaurant will learn to understand and appreciate this initiative, while they enjoy the most fantastic meals. There are children out there who have dreams, and I think the nicest thing about the way Nara Thai is handling this campaign is that they're giving people an opportunity to fulfil them.
Let's talk about food. What's your go-to cuisine?
I love Thai food! It's one of my favourite cuisines and comfort food for me. It's one of the things that I always choose to eat, especially when I'm travelling or if I've had a long and hard day at work. Thai curry and rice always hits the spot.
What is that one dish you like to cook when you are stressed or trying to cheer up yourself or someone else?
Pasta! Our daughter Samira loves red sauce spaghetti. That's her comfort food. So that's something that I manage to whip up quite fast and we all enjoy it as a family as well.
If you had to choose between Thai food everyday or one Thai side dish with every meal you have, what would you choose?
I think that one accompaniment that I would have with every meal, because I'd choose chilli oil.
As someone who is deeply passionate about child welfare and nature conservation, what are some helpful tips or pieces of advice you have for the audience, in the direction of a better world?
I think we all recognise that climate change, human health, peace and progress and welfare for everyone is connected with improving the balance of the natural world. If each of us could live our lives, remembering and performing simple actions like taking part in saving water or electricity or, being more mindful about what we consume, we could make a very big difference. I really believe in the power of 1.3 billion actions for the climate.