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Home > Sunday Mid Day News > Mothers just have to get things done You cant give up

‘Mothers just have to get things done. You can’t give up’

Updated on: 02 August,2023 11:28 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Mitali Parekh |

Grab another hyphen: Actor, TV host and producer Koel Purie Rinchet has just turned author, and we speak to the Delhi girl in Paris, about what that’s like

‘Mothers just have to get things done. You can’t give up’

Koel Purie Rinchet moved to Paris five years ago and completed her first work of fiction in 2021. Pic/Aishwarya Deodhar

She wrote the book out in six months, starting with turning on her computer at her Parisienne apartment, the house emptied of her husband and daughter, and then doing everything else until the flow came. Sometimes, it only came as the apartment was filling back and then she would write through the night. The edit process, “because the literary world is so, I don’t know, diligent? slow?” took two years.

So though actor, TV show host and writer-producer Koël Purie Rinchet’s first work of fiction—Clearly Invisible in Paris (Rupa Publications)—was written in 2021, it launched last week for us to read. The book was born in the space of being an outsider in the City of lights for nearly five years. She is married to Frenchman Laurent Rinchet. “After the honeymoon period with the city is over, [you realise] there is a big difference between visiting a city and living in one,” says Purie. Her book is also about four outsiders, women from different social-cultural backgrounds and ethnicities. Which is also what the play she has written, produced, performed (Mummy’s Dead, Long Live Mummy!); and will be bringing to Delhi, Mumbai and one more Indian city, has in common. As does her first fiction writing—the Doordarshan show Aaj Ki Naari— had, minus one woman. For it, she would take an issue and weave it into a script that the three protagonists of the show—mother, daughter and grandmother—would bring their own perspective to.

It’s this sorority—most palpable when you become a mother—that Purie has unconsciously witnessed and been a channel for many, many times in her professional and personal life. “That’s what my play is about,” says the Delhi girl, whose pedigree stretches into the India Today publishing group, but is often mistaken to be actor Amrish or Om Puri’s daughter. “Mothers just have to get things done. You can’t give up. You can’t die. When you become a mother, your lifeline becomes other mothers who you would not necessarily have even coffee with on any other day. But when your baby has a rash in the middle of the night, that’s the woman you call. I saw that happening with this book too. Women everywhere just came together to say, we’re going to champion it. And it’s not in a transactional way or with a bitchy [undertone], like, she should be so grateful for the help…”

Living in different places has revealed to her how much women who work in domestic jobs support. “Eleven people in her home depended on the housekeeper who looked after me in Tokyo. She and her sisters supported the family. With the women doing everything, the men stayed at home but didn’t take care of it—they were either drunk, home or dead.” The trials and triumphs of these women, within a network of disparate women, make up the framework of her book and play.

Purie emphasises that the book is completely and utterly fictional and not based on anyone she knows, though there are parts of herself in every character. There’d be a trigger point and she’s then fall into the rabbit hole of research comprising home videos with five view about jazz festivals in St Louis, Senegal; or come across a fact, like how poor families in Philippines request undertakers to inject formaldehyde into cadavers to keep them from decaying while the family strung together the pennies needed for a full ritualistic Catholic funeral.

“I read that in an article and the image stayed with me so much that I had to verify it. That’s the beauty of fiction—you can invent anything, take the plot or the character anywhere. Or you can take a starting point, and flesh it out. It was so soul-quenching… that time in front of the computer, in the flow. It was my Ikigai. I was able to disperse and distribute my flaws amongst the characters… now that I think about it… dissect them, and hopefully change them. Or just be aware of them and accept them. That’s a strange place to be… to be aware [of one’s flaws] but not be able to do anything about it. Do we want to fix it?”

As we speak in her room overlooking the Arabian Sea, Purie is dressed like a Pariesenne; she dresses like an Indian in Paris, wearing a saree far more often. It’s a black tank over high-waist, wide-legged pleated emerald trousers falling over tan block heels. In the corner of her room are gold, platform Penny loafers. Three of the five rings on her fingers are serpents, the fourth is also a coil but ends in red and a neutral stone. The green of her pants echoes in the beads around her neck. Then there’s a strand of aquamarine droplets ending in a Tibetan pendant. A long silver chain hangs from her earlobes, ending in a drop of neutral gemstone. And there are ear cuffs, and a gold band on one wrist. There’s a lot going on here, in different tones of colour, but it doesn’t seem crowded. “I love, love fashion but I cannot give the time and attention shopping needs,” she tells us. “So I steal from my friends [like she did the black enamelled snake ring]. Or my sister [Kalli] will come and say, ‘Here, take this. I’ve seen you wear this outfit too many times in public.’ I’m sustainable, I’ll say, and she’ll retort, ‘No! You are just lazy.’ French women have a studied carelessness about them, but I don’t think they do formals or dress up well, like we do.”

In the coming days, she wants to spend more time in Mumbai for creative work opportunities. “There are so many creative outlets,” she says, “With OTT, I can be a cop, a murderer or from a village, though no one has imagined me as that. Yet.” But it’s out there now…

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