Interview: Remembering The Ultimate People's Person Chinna Dua, In Her Words

Chinna Dua interview, in which the late doctor and style icon recalled her days as a young girl and how she grew into a saree-loving icon.

Tanvi Akhauri
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Chinna Dua interview, women over 50

Chinna Dua interview: Her Instagram profile describes her as a medical doctor, singer, passionate cook, saree wearer, vlogger, mom, human. Chinna Dua is no more. But she is still all that she wrote she was, and so much beyond.


On Friday, reports said Dua succumbed to COVID-19 after a long battle in the national capital region. A month ago, she, along with her family - daughter Mallika Dua and husband Vinod Dua - contracted the virus. Not long after, she was admitted to critical care at Medanta, Gurugram.

Within the week, Dua herself took to social media to give a health update: "At this stage we would all love miracles. However, one has to be practical and take one day at a time... God bless us all always. Loads of love to all."

Only days later, news comes she has left.

Her daughter, Mallika Dua took to her Instagram and wrote, "I was born to god and she chose to be her child. That's how incredibly lucky I am. It aches way too much right now but my brave friends who hold similar grief tell me it gets better. Thank you ma for choosing to be my mother. You are my god. Than you ma."

In a conversation earlier this year, I spoke to Chinna Dua about the entire breadth of her interests - from sarees to soirees to songs. She covered most everything there is to love, and yet, it seemed there was still so much ground left uncovered.

That is who Chinna Dua was, with her limitless zest for life and living.


"In my mind, I’m always young. I’m 60, but in my mind, I’m 16. I still have to remind myself of my age sometimes. It’s an attitude yaar. For many things, I believe: Why not? Why shouldn’t I do it?"

In her professional life, her persona was that of radiologist Dr Padmavati Dua. Every moment beyond, she was Chinna Dua - baker, singer, saree connoisseur, speaker, influencer social bug, but above all, a self-loving people's person.

"Self-love is important. If you don’t love yourself, how do you expect the world to love you? I’m a people’s person. I like to be complimented and am also very lavish with my compliments. Because why shouldn’t we do something that makes people happy?"

Chinna Dua Interview: From A Science Girl To A Saree-Hoarding Icon

She hailed from a Tamil family, a large one, with four sisters above her. As a tight-knit group of girls, they naturally inclined towards dress-up and clothes and wardrobe. Chinna Dua was the youngest (and hence the name Chinna which means small in Tamil) and being a first-born of sorts to each sibling, she said she had the advantage of both hand-me-downs, as well as, newly stitched frills.

"It wasn’t expensive cloth, sometimes even waste cloth," Dua recalls. But to her, it was a priceless addition to her collection.


Around her too, indulgence in dressing up vibrant. From her Bengali neighbours taking her into their saree culture - "the Bangla connect" she called it - to her uniform-free school where the principal believed, 'I don’t want my children to look like jail inmates, they should look like butterflies.'

"I belong to that era when kids used to dress up in sarees around festive season," she said. Even as she grew up into a college-going science student in Delhi, the saree remained a staple; she and her Lady Irwin friends would "brave the DTC buses" in their sarees. After marriage, her wardrobe only grew. Gradually, she became a standout at social events.

"At the time, people were still wearing sarees to parties. Eventually, women of my age began wearing dresses and palazzos. The only person wearing a saree at the party would be Chinna Dua."

To her, a saree was the most elegant dress, one in which she "felt most comfortable." From vintage, heavy collections to newer, light handlooms, Dua's collection was exhaustive, and yet, she said she couldn't ever think of cutting them down to kurtas and salwars.

A Wizened Style Icon For The Youth

Chinna Dua first joined Facebook in 2008. "People tried to dissuade me by saying, 'Facebook is for the young'," she recalled with honest perplexity. With help from her daughters, she worked her way around the social media channel. "And soon a moment came when my girls used to ask me – 'mamma, how to function this?' That was my moment of triumph."


From there, with a little push from Mallika, Dua springboarded to Instagram as well - one in a fresh crop of older influencers breaking new ground in combatting age and gender stereotypes. Her perennially bright, joy-giving persona fit right in with the Instagram youth who was more than pleased to find inspiration in her style.

"I am surprised by the amount of influence I have over the younger crowds... I have to work hard myself as well. It’s a slow journey, like the hour hand ticking upward on the clock. Only after some time has passed is when you notice the needle has moved," she said, like the wise figure of experience she was.

"Instagram is something I am very happy about. It is eclectic and that makes me feel very nice." Chinna Dua

As for her saree collection, she told me she had put a strict stop on buying new pieces. But that she had picked up on other skills. "Learning to take selfies on Instagram, editing my videos in lockdown, I learnt it all – I feel very proud of myself. It keeps me going. It’s important to keep reinventing yourself."

"It’s all about wanting to learn more. There is no end to learning." And surely, there was no one who proved it better than her.


mallika dua Vinod Dua Chinna Dua radiologist saree influencer