Playing their parts

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By Lushin and Ilina Dubey share a deep bond, both onstage and off AS TOLD TO ARUNDHATI BASU
  • Published 7.01.06

She’s one of the best-known faces in the Indian theatre circuit. Both onstage and off, Lushin Dubey has been a key figure in Indian theatre for over 20 years. Back in 1986, she attempted to kickstart the youth theatre movement with Kids World, a group she started with her cousin, Bubbles Sabharwal.

Dubey has tried her hand at almost everything possible in the world of theatre. She has produced Shakespearean plays, and also done more contemporary issue-based theatre concentrating on themes like women, children and AIDS. After completing her Masters in Childhood and Special Education from the US, Dubey was deeply involved in teaching mentally challenged children in the US and then in India at the American Embassy School. She says, “Work is defined by age. I find myself asking questions I’d never have asked 10 years ago. This quest has led me into plays like The Life of Gautama Buddha, Untitled Solo and Bitter Chocolate.” She will soon be on stage once again in a classic role as Lady Macbeth in Alyque Padamsee’s Macbeth.

Lushin is married to mathematician Dr Pradeep Dubey and is mother to two daughters, Ilina and Tara.

Ilina made her first stage appearance at the age of seven in the play Charlotte’s Web. After that early debut, the now 25-year-old has always been relaxed about appearing on stage. She graduated from Lady Shriram College in Delhi in Economics and plans to do a Masters in Business Management. And as she wanted a few years of work experience before pursuing her MBA, she started working in the financial divisions of companies such as GE and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Now she’s the country representative for a New York-based real estate company. But her love remains theatre. She says, “This way, I have got the best of both worlds.”



For as long as I can remember, my mother’s been my everything. Since my father would be away in the United States six months in a year, I have grown up with her around me all the time. She has been a huge inspiration for me, not only with what she has achieved in her professional life, but also with what she is in her personal life. She has taught me what it takes to be a good human being.

I cannot recall being without her a single second as a child. In fact, in the first five years that I was growing up in the US, my mother would even keep the door open when she was in the bathroom. Otherwise, I would start bawling. I was quite a spoilt kid being the firstborn and my mother was only 23 years old when she had me. Once I troubled her so much that she started crying. I bawled even louder. It was a mess, but it’s a memory that always brings a smile to my lips.

Having grown up in a generation that is very materially aware, I must confess that I was a selfish child. I was a tomboy and a rebel who believed that her way of thinking was the best. On the other hand, my mother was this giving individual who would identify with other people and get under their skin. I think this is what makes her such a fine actress ? her ability to reach out to others. I used to think that she was too sensitive and loving. Not till I reached the age of 14, did I realise how wrong I was, and that real happiness lies in giving.

I have lived on my own while working in the US. When you are away from home and living alone, you know that there is no place like home and nobody like family. So now that I am home with my mother, we spend as much time together as possible. I’ve always been happy spending time with my folks because they’ve treated me as a friend and never imposed any thoughts or decisions on me. The fact that they allowed me to fly made sure that I flew at a safe height.

Lushin Dubey


I was expecting Ilina at the age of 23 when so many things were happening in my life. I was travelling, studying and dealing with married life. So there was no recourse for me but to reach out and embrace everything.

I share a unique bond with my daughters Ilina and Tara. I’d rather spend time with my girls than go partying. In fact, my husband, a mathematician, is a professor with two universities in the US. He is always travelling back and forth between India and the US. So I spend most of my time with my daughters. Ilina has returned to Delhi to stay with me while Tara lives abroad and comes home occasionally.

My eldest daughter Ilina wears her heart on her sleeve. It’s something I warn her to be careful about. It’s good to be honest but not so much that you would be taken advantage of. My father would always ask me to try saying the truth every day and I know that in the long run it helps. Yet as I say, wear your heart on your sleeve but keep that armour on the sleeve too. My daughter has been in vulnerable situations because of this trait and I feel this overwhelming urge to protect her.

Ilina and I chill out together playing games like Scrabble and Pictionary, watching DVDs at home, or listening to music. She makes me listen to her favourite music and at other times, we lock ourselves into a room and share our secrets.

Ilina’s a low profile person even though she is doing good work. She’s a very good dancer and has been into theatre as well. At the age of 10, she started writing poems. These were beautiful pieces that show an individual expressing herself beyond her years. If my daughter has inherited the artistic, creative side of her personality from her mother, she has her father’s academic qualities in her. She has chosen an academic field for herself and wants to pursue a Masters degree in Business Management. She works so hard that even when she sleeps late, I feel she’s earned it.

This mother has learnt something from her daughter with time. As I said, she has her father’s analytical qualities in her, which means she rationalises emotional things and detaches herself if she feels she might get hurt. I’ve realised this is an intelligent thing to do at times.

As every mother probably does, I have dreams for my daughter. One wishes for her that in today’s mad, consumerist world she gets that elusive thing called happiness.