“I have this unconditional love for handloom saris, even though the generation today prefers all these net and synthetic saris, saying the former would make them look like an aunty. I too wear non handloom like Crepe, Chiffon, Georgette and very very rarely synthetic sarees that I received as a gift and hence I cherish them. So, my first suggestion would be to go for the variety of handloom sarees available as it undoubtedly remains the classiest. Aim to be different and elegant. In handloom, you can go for light Banarasi saree. Banarasi Georgette with zari is easy to wear drape, and has elegance woven into it. Chanderi, Maheshwari are also very light and these days Cotton silks or Sicos are available all over and are easy to procure.”
These are the words of the most stunning Chinna Dua, who is creating waves in her own style in the instagram as Social media saree icon
We had the wonderful opportunity to interview Chinna Dua, and got her to share some of the interesting and exciting saree stories. She spoke about her saree love from her childhood, the remarkable Instagram journey, how she balances being a saree influencer and her job as a doctor ( though she has taken a temporary break from 1st August 2019), with a message to the millennials.
We are grateful and heartfelt thanks from Khinkhwab team to Chinna ji, for sparing time out of her busy schedule, who is a radiologist by profession, but such an ardent saree lover and enthusiast by passion.
Let us read how Chinna ji introduces herself to the readers
“I am Chinna Dua, my official name is Padmavati Dua.Before my marriage, I was N.Padmavati. N stands for Natarajan, which is my father’s name. Down South, Thanjavur or Tanjore to be precise,which is where I come from, we attach our father’s first name before our name.Post marriage Dua got added as a surname. On our 1st meet, my husband exclaimed after listening to my name and said, “That’s a mouthful”.
I gave him the option of addressing me as Chinna,which my family & friends, a batch junior to me in medical college used to address me as. I too couldn’t imagine him calling me Padmavati, in our day-to-day interactions.
He introduces me to everybody as Chinna and that’s how I became Chinna Dua . When social media happened,I decided to keep it as my profile name . Only people from my school & college days know me as Padmavati. They too have now started addressing me as Chinna .”
Saree love over the years
“ I was born in 1960 and those were the days, when the majority of women would wear sarees, to work, to college. Hence, my saree love, I would say, started from the time I was born.I have four sisters elder to me , (eldest one is no more) and I used to see them wearing sarees. My mother, an orthodox Tamil ,wore sarees 24x7, and wearing a nightie at home was something which she started pretty late in life. However outside of home, it was always a saree.
Delhi has always been a cosmopolitan city. We grew up in a Mohalla culture, in a government colony and there were people from different communities who were our neighbors. Bengalis, people from UP, Dilliwalas,Maharashtrians, lots of Punjabis, all used to drape sarees. It was lovely to see a variety of sarees, mostly handlooms. 644 synthetic sarees from Japan, were introduced in the mid 70s.
A major influence in my life,when I was only 40 days old, was from my next-door Bengali neighbors who took a fancy to me , were addicted to me and I became like a daughter to them. I grew up in their home and so that’s how Bangla is like my first language. My Bangla is better than my Tamil.”
Six yards during school days
“Growing up in a Bengali household, my school, Lady Irwin School which had a separate Bangla section & where Basant Panchami / Saraswati Pooja used to be celebrated , I was exposed to very young girls, say, in class 3rd and 4th who would wear small sarees from Kolkata, designed specially for kids.Many would drape a dupatta as a sari for the puja. My sisters would also modify the “Chunni” (Dupattas) into a saree and tie it up nicely and send me to school on Basant Panchami.
Apart from Basant Panchami, most teachers and other staff in school would be wearing sarees regularly and mostly handlooms. Of course, my love for sarees & handloom is undoubtedly because of the women in my family.From the time I was in Class 6,my neighbor,the Bengali gentleman, Mr K.D.Gupta, a father figure to me ,who I addressed as Mama, would gift me a saree on my birthday and on Durga Puja every year. Hence, my saree collection started pretty early. “
“In college, I used to wear sarees, apart from salwar kameez, jeans, bell bottoms, parallels, wrap around skirts.In Medical college, for the final exams, it was compulsory to wear sarees. When we had our final exams and were given cases to be presented, it was mandatory to wear sarees. The thought was that the patient will take you seriously and you will be able to elicit the history better from them.
Apart from this,I was surrounded by my friends , a lot of them Bengalis and even non Bengalis who were saree lovers. So, the saree love kept growing.”
“Post marriage, my husband loves sarees, loves to buy and gift me. So, wherever he would go on a shoot, he would buy sarees for me. He has an excellent taste and buys ethnic ones. That’s how my collection grew. Obviously, when you have a lovely collection and you receive compliments, the love grows. And I feel with my obese self, saree is something which hides my lopsided figure. In hot summers, a nice cotton saree or even a chiffon which is light, makes you feel very comfortable. It is airy, as opposed to a full salwar kameez, is what I would say. Thick jeans is definitely not the kind of dress to be worn, given the kind of humidity as well as the hot weather here,although jeans are perfect for winters.”
Social Media journey - “@chinnadua”
We asked Chinna ji, when she looked back at her two-year Instagram journey as a saree influencer, what are some of the best moments that she wants to share with us?
Listen to what she has to say about her Insta journey through this video, which also gives you a feel of the amazing sarees that she adorns. Isn’t it so beautiful to see how stunning she looks in the stunning collection of sarees? This sweet person inspires you, motivates you and makes you so happy
Click the link :- In Conversation with Chinna Dua
Chinnaji’s favorite sarees
Which is your favorite saree till date?
“This is a tough question. I love different sarees for different reasons. Sometimes there is an emotion attached to it, sometimes it is my favorite color, sometimes I love the work on it. My most priced and prized possession is my Shikargah. It is a Benarasi ,pink with gold organza, which is a pure silver gold plated with fine jungle scene woven on it. It is a gift of love from my husband and I absolutely adore it.”
Chinna Dua : The perfectionist
Your every saree picture on Instagram looks so perfect with the right accessories and the matching bindis. How does it all happen?
Well, I would say I suffer from OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder of wanting things perfect. It may not always turn out to be perfect. I am glad that you feel it is perfect. I have this trait in me, that certain things irritate me. If I feel this is how it should be , right or wrong,then it has to be that way.
As a kid, being the youngest in my family of seven children, all my siblings doted on me. One of my sisters would stitch a new dress for me every day, which I would wear when I would go out to play. That’s how I grew up with a lot of love. Wearing a new dress every evening naturally made me love dressing up . However, I must say that during my youth I used to be dressed in a simple manner not the way I dress up now.The only makeup I do is wear a kajal, eye liner, lipstick and Hindi. I don’t apply any foundation at all and have only applied it whenever I have acted in school, college, few years ago for a punjabi musical and recently when I modelled for a saree brand.”
Passion for Bindis
“Studying in a medical college, one had to dress simple. I would be very neatly dressed in Salwar Kameez / trousers/ jeans/ bell bottoms, long wrap around skirts. I had already started wearing sarees. I would take sarees from my sisters or Bhabhis too and wear to college. During that time , my sister’s friend gifted my sister, a pack of 24 liquid bindis, as a birthday gift. Shingar had brought out that set for a limited period. I had it for the longest time with all the colors. I used to love bindis and as a South Indian, it was a regular habit to wear a bindi. In South India, even now, many of them wear bindi and that too even with western wear which I never did.
I was very clear that I would not wear bindi with western wear. Many a time, my father would say, “How come you don’t have a bindi on your forehead today?”. I would reply, “No Appa, I don’t wear it with western wear or trousers but with Indian dresses, I will.” I have a very wide forehead and so if I don’t wear a bindi, somehow, my forehead looks very khali khali. Bindi livened up my face and I took a liking to it.
Initially, the bindi used to be in the form of a small dot. One of my elder sisters had moulds, resembling a nail with a design on the flat surface . She used to use it to apply powder bindi. I never liked that because it would always fall on my nose & create a big mess . However, I liked liquid bindi. Inside the packing of the bindi, there would be a small paper with designs printed on it."
“I am a very bad artist on paper. Looking at the designs printed on the sheet accompanying the liquid bindi, I decided to draw those kind of patterns until one day I decided that I would draw whatever motif would be there on my outfit. Once I started doing this, in college, I became pretty well-known as the person who wears bindis matching the motifs on her outfit.
When I met my husband for the first time,I had made one in the form of 4 green rounds with a tiny dot in the centre. I was wearing a green chikan saree that day. He loved the idea that I used to draw my own bindis.
Once the children were born, I got involved in bringing them up. By that time stick-on bindis had flooded the market and they were very convenient. So, I started using those . Very often, Vinod would ask me, “Why don’t you wear your liquid bindi?”That was another encouragement for me. When the children grew up and when I returned to full time job, I again started drawing them.
The fact that people were appreciative of it as it was not something which was very common, also perked up my interest. When I joined the saree groups on facebook, I started posting pictures of my sarees & bindis and the reactions really perked me. So that again further boosted my will to do it and that's how it happened.”
Accessorizing the right way
“As far as the right accessories is concerned, somewhere along the line,I got interested . I don’t know really recall, but probably during college days. Vinod (My husband) is very fond of buying too. He used to buy me jewellery and I would try and buy the ones with coloured stones, precious and semi precious. I always wanted everything perfectly matching. So gradually I started collecting and now have a huge collection of matching stuff. I started doing a lot of contrast pairing after I joined the saree groups. My children would always tell me to wear “contrasts”, but I would say “No, no, it has to be matching”. However, now I do mostly contrasts and I am enjoying that. It is no rocket science. It just happens, That’s it!!”
Profession and Passion
How do you balance between the radiologist job and being the Instagram saree icon?
“Thankfully, very early in my career, my husband said,” I think, you are burning yourself. It will be a good idea to switch over to a half-day job.” I can’t thank him enough for this, because life started looking up, after that. I was always keen on being a gynaecologist (Gynaecology). However,when I had my children,my career took a back seat for a few years. When I admitted my younger daughter to a school with a day care centre in 1992,I decided I to go back to full time work.
In fact it was me and my husband who were sitting and planning. We were looking at options in the vicinity of the day care centre . It is Vinod who thought of this clinic as it was closest to the school . This was Diwan Chand Aggarwal Imaging Centre, an iconic ,very reputed institute, which unfortunately shut down in 2016.
Vinod said,” Why don’t you start as an observer somewhere?”. That appealed to me. My late boss, Dr. Sudarshan Agarwal was my mentor, friend, philosopher and guide. We didn’t know him but approached him through a common friend,also his neighbour and he was very forthcoming. I joined that place as an observer. However, very soon, he really took a liking to me and liked my work. He felt that I was hardworking and offered me a full-time job. After 3 years, I switched over to a half day job. So, radiology kind of fell into my lap.
Doing half-day without any night duties, my life, touch wood, was very much on track. Sometimes when I look back, I feel that left to myself , had I taken up gynae, I don’t know what kind of hectic stressful life I would have had, looking at the plight of many of my gynaecologist friends.
Given our hectic social life and my husband’s busy schedule, it would have been very difficult for me to manage our home. I am very happy that God did what he did and radiology fell into my lap.
So, the balance, touch wood, has not been tough at all. From 1st August, I quit my work. I haven’t retired but have taken a break till something suitable comes my way. I am enjoying this break as I am pursuing my other interests like music, my handwork, my cookery, which I have always been wanting to do. We all have only one life and I am going to be 60 in Jan 2020. Hence, I am looking forward to do eclectic things"
“They should take a look at (instagrammers) people like @desidrapes, she is so young and look at her how she wears sarees. She carries off all dresses beautifully, but specifically what she does with sarees is awesome. Like her, there are so many others on the social media like Mamta Sharma(@thebohobaalika). Follow them, they are inspirational. You too will look cool . You don’t have to keep it only for special occasions like weddings or festivals. For those who travel by their own car, it is easy. For those traveling by public transport, I agree is difficult especially if you live in Delhi and have to run and get on to a bus. Having said that, women of my generation traveled by public transport wearing sarees . Plan your next day, take time out, get your outfit ready the previous evening along with the accessories. You can also do it on a sunday when you take out 5-6 sets for the whole week. Believe me it is not difficult.
Wear sarees; Saree will not die
“Once you start wearing sarees regularly, your saree draping time will also reduce. You will soon master the art. It is one of the most beautiful & elegant dresses. You all should definitely keep it going. One thing I will like to say. Many people lament saree will die. I don’t believe that. There is no question. We don’t have to worry about that. It is an outfit that will forever appeal to many. If millennials also take to it,that would be awesome. In spite of them not taking it up as a daily wear, I will still say that all said and done, when it comes to l weddings or special occasions, most of the youngsters choose to wear a saree at least for one or two occasions. As long as there are weddings and festivals, sarees will surely stay.”
You can follow this gorgeous Social media Saree icon, Chinna Dua to read through her outstanding saree stories
If you are looking at supporting handmade and buy Handloom Banarasi silk sarees online, you can find them all in this one-stop shop, Khinkhwab - The Essence of Banaras