Vida: Afghan Woman Organisation helps women become aware of their rights.

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS This Afghan-American says she has the best of both worlds There is one question that Vida Samadzai is constantly asked: “How is Osama and are you his mistress?” Vida nonchalantly shrugs it off, with a reply that “plays along” to the tune. She answers: “Yeah, he is fine – didn’t you know that we had a relationship?”

Vida Samadzai was crowned Miss Afghanistan in 2003, defying and breaking stereotypes that both her home and adopted country have of Afghanistan and its people.

She was born and raised in Afghanistan till she moved to the U.S.A with her family, when she was in her early teens. She was related to the royal ruling family – the late Mohammed Zahir Shah, the last king of the war-ravaged country. Vida Samadzai was here in the city to work for a women’s right organisation, model for Deepika Govind’s collection and watch the test match.

She recalls her childhood in the 1980s: “It was wonderful and we were happy – there was television, music, movies including ‘Khuda Gawah’ and I never cared about politics – I still don’t”, she states. Graceful and willowy, Vida recounts how she and her family left Afghanistan and moved to California.

Talking about entering the pageant, Vida says: “I was working for a company that deals with home loans and a former Miss America persuaded me to participate. I hadn’t even done any of the working out or make-up sessions, took a risk and I won.” At the Miss Earth pageant, she wore a “70s style red bikini” that created a stir in Afghanistan – and since then she’s been banished from visiting.

For the last year and a half, she has been living in Mumbai trying her hands in two things close to her heart — Bollywood and social work. “Passion brought me to India. I had a role in a Subhash Ghai movie ‘Black and White’ and have modelled for designer Deepika Govind’s clothes, amongst others.”

Vida works for a women rights organisation called “Afghan Woman Organisation” that helps women become aware of their rights. “The Taliban took away basic rights and women need to be made aware of their rights.

She feels that there is no difference between her and her compatriots. “They are still courageous, nurturing, giving, smart and intelligent. I just went to another country and had access to education. But inside us, the blood and fire is still the same. Afghans have the biggest heart – they will give you the last jacket they’re wearing if you’re cold and their last bite if you’re hungry. They just want peace.”

This Afghan-American says that adopting the U.S.A and being of Afghan origin has helped her pick the best of both worlds. “I wouldn’t say that the U.S has greatly influenced me as a person. I am aware of my rights and I just have an American accent. I think that I had an opportunity to live life for myself and not be bothered about what other people say about where I come from.”

She feels that there is no use pointing fingers at just one person for the situation of Afghanistan. “They are just ignorant people who have taken advantage of the situation. And after 9/11, the image that people have of terrorists has changed. It was horrible to hear that an innocent Sikh man had been killed just because he had a beard.”

She also met fellow Afghan-American and author Khaled Hosseini. “We’ve exchanged ideas and discussed controversies. ‘The Kite Runner’ is an amazing book – it brought tears to my eyes. I was offered a role in the movie but my mother didn’t pass on the message,” she laughs.

Vida has plans of being a successful businesswoman. “I know I can and will be one so that I can contribute more money to organisations and change the lifestyle of Afghan women and children.” She adds, “Of course, I also want to get married, have six children and live close to my family.”

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