PHENOMENAL WOMAN: DEBASMITA DASGUPTA

“What you seek is seeking you” by Rumi

This vivacious young woman is seeking true tales of fathers and daughters across the universe and creating ripple effect through her soulfully illustrated series ‘My Father illustrations’. Meet the talented artist and a beautiful soul Debasmita Dasgupta who is also known as Smita and is in love with her sketch book since childhood. She works as a development communications manager in Singapore and is the founder artist of the art initiative ‘My Father Illustrations.’ 

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Born and raised in Kolkata, India, in a middle-class family. Being the only child, Debasmita had a very close bond with her parents, especially her father. She applied in her life what her father; Pradip Dasgupta said to her years back that “Life is all about knowing oneself and respecting others.” This ideal became the foundation of her philosophy. Her illustrations reflect the same. Drawing started as a hobby during her childhood days soon after she started holding crayons and pencil.  She did her schooling from Patha Bhavan and was fond of going to school. During her school days always managed time between classes and lunch break to doodle. Debasmita is an avid reader of comic books since childhood. Her mind would soak up all the details in their illustrations. She visualised the comic stories in front of her. Comic books were food for her creativity since her school days. As she grew up, she turned this love into a passion, illustrated for close friends. 

During her college years in Scottish Church College, Debasmita came across many artists, painters whose work influenced her a lot. And even though she studied science as a major, she never ceased to illustrate, sometimes even at the cost of her studies. Illustrations helped her to express herself better and also helped her to unleash her highest potential as an individual and an artist. She can doodle tirelessly for hours. It was in 2008 that she decided to turn this passion into a profession when she got a chance to publish her first children’s picture book, “The Friday Fair” (2010) with KATHA. There was no turning back afterwards. She plunged into a vast ocean where every wave is a new inspiration. Every story has a new colour and flavour of its own. Discoveries were inspirational and endless.  

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She has a full-time career as a development communications manager — a job she is highly passionate about. But illustrations give her peace of mind and happiness. Debasmita continue to illustrate for her personal ventures — those meaningful initiatives that she have created to share her art with the rest of the world. She also takes up illustration assignments for non-profits, particularly with organizations working on women and child rights. 


My Father illustrations started from a TED Talk by an Afghani woman, ShabanaBasij-Rasikh. Shabana grew up in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. In the TED talk, Shabana talks about how girls were not allowed to go to school during that regime. But it was Shabana’s father who gave her the support and courage to continue with school. He told Shabana, “The Taliban can take everything from you, but not your knowledge.” Shabana went on to complete her schooling, pursued her master’s degree
from America and now she’s back in Kabul, where she runs a school for Afghan girls. Had it not been for her father, Shabana would have never been able to walk the path she finally chose.She shared the story of how her father helped her to continue with her studies against all odds during the Taliban regime. She quoted her father, “We will let nothing stop your education, even if we have to sell our blood for it.”The talk struck a chord with Debasmita, who is very close to her father too. 
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Debasmita was completely taken over by Shabana’s story. This story created a deep impact on Debasmita’s heart and mind. It reminded her of her father’s strong ideals. She thought, there must be many other fathers, in different corners of the world, who fearlessly stand for the rights of their children. Why aren’t enough people talking about these stories? There should be a way to showcase and share such untold tales. Every positive story can create another. 

Then she thought what will be the best way for her to communicate those stories? She didn’t have to look any further than her study table. Her sketch book was waiting for her to create these illustrations for change. Her answer was ‘My illustrations’. The idea came like a bolt of lightning, but it changed her forever. Within a week, she started the “mYFaTHer” illustrated series dedicated to fathers who fight for child rights.  
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Every child-related issue needs the direct involvement of children. We need to hear from them with a very open mind and heart to faithfully address such issues. That’s why fathers and daughters are equal owners of “mYFaTHer” illustrations. The picture stories are not just about how fathers stand for their children but also about how the children imagine them to stand for them. The action and the struggle of the children are also beautifully portrayed. 

Currently “mYFaTHer Illustrations” is an online initiative in the form of a Facebook page, through which she is trying to reach out to hundred thousand people and many more. 

 Debasmita’s father is her ideal. He is a self-made man of strong principles. This father daughter duo has no barrier, no secrets, and although they argue over many things, her father’s eyes pop up when listening to her opinions. Her father is a deep listener, trying to engage with people, and always telling them to follow their heart. He wanted his daughter, Debasmita to follow the truth, but to find it first.  

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Stunning original illustrations based on powerful stories of fathers and daughters. There is no room for negativity in this series. A midst of so much negativities and intolerance around the world, “My Father Illustrations” gives hope and spread smiles. It gives courage to do well and to live like an example. Fathers are courage and strength for their daughters. 

Debasmita encourages all the readers to join the page and help her spread the word. Do read more courageous tales of fathers and daughters from around the world on Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/myfatherIllustrations 

Share Debasmita’s story if it inspired you.  

Note: This story is part of The Phenomenal Woman Series launched by Papercup. 

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 weaved by: Poulomi  

 Poulomi is a story-teller. She  weaves the best of stories under the  name “Better Stories”. Papercup  has collaborated with Better Stories  to explore what we can do with kids.  She is weaving the stories  published in the 2nd chapter of The Phenomenal Woman campaign. 

PHENOMENAL WOMAN: NEHA BHATNAGAR

“I am going to make the rest of my life the best of my life!” – Anonymous 

The woman who imbibed this quote in her life, chasing her dreams and unfolding beautiful and happy experiences for both children and adults through her unique and innovative toy venture ‘friendlytoyz.com’ : Meet Neha Bhatnagar, the dotting mother to two little angels, the vibrant entrepreneur who is amazingly rocking the work-home routine.

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Born and brought up in Kolkata, Neha had fond memories of her childhood. Her childhood days were studded with holidaying with family and friends, impromptu travel plans by her father that has inspired her to add slice of adventure in her persona. As the youngest sibling, she was hugely pampered by everyone and till date she has an unfair advantage, but clauses applied. Her mother made sure that Neha did every single extra-curricular activity possible. Her evenings packed with classical singing, Bharatnatyam, western dance, folk dance, art, theatre classes and many more! Earlier at times she used to complain about her long schedule of extra-curricular classes but it helped her to develop deep interest and love for arts. She had lot of gratitude for her mother, who pushed her to do so. Neha’s school days at Modern High School for girls were the most phenomenal years of her life. Friendship is the most beautiful, most powerful and the most valuable treasure in life. 

Neha was blessed with the most awesome gang of friends and treasured this wealth. She was a very bright student. Memories that she cherishes till date is how they used to fight over tiffin and finish every single tiffin box way before lunch time! Sometimes she and her friends would reach school at 9am and eat up the tasty tiffins before the 1st period also. 

Neha gives all the credit to her incredible teachers who made learning experiences beautiful and enjoyable for them. As Prefect and House Captain, she was involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities and sports. One of the most rewarding experiences from school was exposure to a program called The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme (now called the International Award for Young People). They had to work from Bronze to Gold Levels and had to commit to 1 art, 1 sport, 1 social service and certain number of treks at every level. 

This gave her the chance to try out so many new things. She spent lot of time with orphaned kids on holidays and that had a deep impact on what she is today. Those kids taught her that happiness lies within and their fighting spirit gives her strength. Through the program they would have to go for treks to hilly areas, learn how to set up tents and stay in them, carry their own rucksacks, cook their own meals in fire that they have to light with wood collected by them. Their trainers were strict and taught them discipline and how to survive in tough situations. Through the program she was also sent for an international conference to Israel to represent India at the age of 17. Neha owes to her school for her achievements and for also the person she has become today.

Neha pursued commerce from JD Birla Institute with Gold Medal from Jadavpur University in finals. She also did CA alongside and earned a rank too. To become a CA was her father’s dream. The little Neha, when she did not even know what CA stood for; she would hear her father announce to family that his daughter will grow up to be a CA. That’s when she decided that she would be one, whatever that meant! During her college years she also worked as an apprentice at the reputed KPMG Big Four Firm. They recruited only 4 interns from Kolkata and she worked hard with her sincerity. When a challenge comes her way, she reminds herself that if she could tide over those years in college, this challenge counts for nothing. She is fearless and that is her accessory. 


Before starting her own venture she worked at ABN AMRO Bank. This was her first job where she became the best Client Experience Manager (East India), Preferred Banking at ABN AMRO Bank. This feisty and gorgeous woman never stopped thereafter. She became CEO of Fact Solutions India, an ERP development conglomerate with offices in India, Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and parts of Africa, at the age of 27!

She is passionate about everything she does. Either she does with passion or she doesn’t do it at all. Working with kids and working for kids is what drives her and gives her entrepreneurial inspiration. Neha loves to learn from kids and says that they are the most phenomenal tiny beings on the planet. Kids are carefree, loving and forgiving. They never give up. With all her love and passion for kids, she founded Friendly Toyz, which focuses on products and services around kids. Neha would spend all her time working for underprivileged kids and educating the girl child after retirement. 

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In 2012, when her son was 2 years old then this idea came to her mind. She was constantly struggling to keep him entertained with different kinds of toys and noticed that he would get bored of any toy within 3-4 days. Neha would go crazy making space to store that toy and also look for another appropriate one. This struggle made her think to design a toy service where one could return toys and get another new one. She realised that like her other mothers were in the same boat. The idea of starting a weekly toy library service began from there.


Friendlytoyz.com is an endeavour to bring together the coolest products and services for kids that provide best value for money and saves time for parents. The main idea behind the weekly toy service is that it saves money as one don’t have to keep buying toys all the time, it saves storage space. Anyone can simply make a wishlist on the website as they will send toys at your doorstep every week. This cool venture allows a parent to expose a child to a variety of toys ranging from musical toys, pretend play, puzzles, board games and so much more. Typically when we go to toy store with our child, we end up making an impulsive purchase. The child will always grab what he or she is fascinated with every time and this means you just keep buying irrelevant toys like remote controlled cars all the time. On the contrary, one can make an informed decision about toys by subscribing to friendlytoyz.com. It has a unique approach where one gets to choose toys in accordance to different skills of children. People get to know what skills get developed by playing with which toy. Push pull toys help in developing motor skills; pretend play improves imagination & creativity; puzzles improve problem solving and hand eye co-ordination and so on.Secondly, kids learn to share and to keep toys back in place after play so that the Toyman can take them back and deliver something else! It teaches them a sense of responsibility and structure! It is indeed bringing lot of freshness and colours in the toy and development scenario for children. 

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Within 2 years of operations in Delhi/NCR, they managed to buy out their biggest competitor to become the largest toy library in India. Bagged the title of Best Toy Library in India in a popular poll conducted by RivoKids and have recently been labelled as Startup of the Year 2015 in the January 2016 issue of Startup 360 Degree Magazine. The first successful franchisee took off in Hyderabad in 2015. Recently started the toy library service in Kolkata too.


The library is an initiative to change the way toys are traditionally consumed. Presently they have started operations in 3 cities and wish to open libraries across India. Some of the unique events friendlytoyz.com has organised are:
•Mother & child music program – This was a beautiful program for introducing children to musical instruments and concepts like beat, pitch, tempo etc. It was a great way for moms to spend time with their kids exploring music together
•Military bootcamp – This is a military training set up for kids one summer and kids got to exercise the military way! Crawling through tunnels and walking on rope bridges, they learnt a lot about team building and helping each other. This was followed by time spent with soldiers at a military camp. 

This inspirational woman inspires herself by women who break norms and make a space for themselves. She likes reading the journeys of sportswomen, businesswomen and women that are astronauts, bankers etc. Reading their stories really inspires her and also gives a sense of pride that they are setting the path for change. Neha’s favourite quote is “If people aren’t laughing at your dreams, then they aren’t big enough!” She believes that if we work hard, we can achieve anything we want. There is no space for fear or doubt.  Neha loves travelling and travel has taught her to be strong and to take quick decisions and not to have any regret. Travel is an intense mode of learning for Neha. Every travel has given her some takeaway. She draws a lot of creativity from her travels. It’s a great way to take a few steps back from her hectic routine and just look around. She loves beaches on the one hand and mighty mountains on the other. Treks took her several times to the snowy hills of the Himalayas and those experiences are precious.


Her typical day starts at 6.30am when she has to pack the kids off to school. Once they leave, she stores energy by playing a few games of squash or hit the gym. She says that since childhood she was very competitive by nature. Winning a few games early in the morning or beating someone at a gym routine gives her an adrenaline rush that lasts all day. Work comprises of lots of research, supervision, networking and team meetings. This takes up all day. She prefers going back home by 7pm so that she can get a few hours with the kids before they sleep. Neha love being with close family and friends so her evenings are reserved for small get together at home or friends’ homes.  

Friendlytoyz.com is here to change the way toys are consumed. In order to achieve this, they are planning to open toy libraries across India. Neha and the entire team is working on an aggressive strategy to open franchisees in 2016-2017. Neha’s favourite advice to the aspiring entrepreneurs and all women is “whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome. Life is tough, my darling, but so are you!”

The positive part of this lovely phenomenal woman is that she has courage to take risk and weave her better stories.

Story weaved by: Poulomi

Poulomi is a story-teller. She weaves the best of stories under the name “Better Stories”.  Kinditude (a board game on kindness and gratitude) is her brainchild. Papercup has collaborated with Better Stories to explore what we can do with kids. She is weaving the stories published in the 2nd chapter of The Phenomenal Woman campaign. 

PHENOMENAL WOMAN: ALISHAH SALMA SULLEMAN

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China, USA, UAE, England, Maldives, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Thailand, Vietnam, Qatar, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Brussels, Venice..This list can go on for a while. Though not a self-claimed globe trotter has been to all these places and more. But if you think she is a full-time traveler, you will be mistaken. Meet Alishah Salma Sulleman: Globe Trotter and Entrepreneur.

This 29 year old is the owner of ‘One Degree North H.R Services’: A recruitment firm catering to the IT, ITES, Retail and Ecommerce space. Founded exactly half a decade back, the company graph has only witnessed an upward growth: from 5 to 50 stable employees, from a small poky work space to 3 large centres across India, Ms Sulleman has made a promising start to her entrepreneurial journey.  A firm believer in the mantra ‘money makes money’, she said ‘Money is one of the biggest factor in any line of business. Although I must admit that employee welfare and employee satisfaction, followed by healthy Client relations are of utmost importance for any thriving business’.

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Alishah, born in the 80s had a childhood which did not feature mobile phones and iPads, no easy access to television. This ensured lots of out-door games and activities. For a child who grew up with three elder sisters and one elder brother, there was no dearth of adventure in her early days of life either. While talking about her childhood she said “I’ve had the honour of going to a good missionary school that helped build my value system strong. The school I went to was different in every way. The school had a street pet dog that belonged to our Irish nun-principal. The dog was named after our school itself.  We studied side by side with street children, who were given shelter, food and needless to mention, they were given an excellent environment for education and growth. Some of them and us, were in the same class, learned the same lessons, same teachers and got the very same treatment, which I think helped us grow more as individuals. By now you would have guessed that social work, doing good to and for the society, humanity, were all the most important lessons we were taught in school. We visited nearby villages as a part of our extra-curricular routine. We went to our assigned village-schools and imparted bits and pieces of whatever we had learned, to rural children. (I believe, we did make a difference).”

A different and holistic schooling gave Ms Sulleman a much required base which might have acted as a springboard to turn her into the successful yet humble Business Woman that she is now. She started working as early as her first year in college. So, by the time she graduated she already had three years of work experience. A year down the line she started One Degree North and did not look back since then.

While most Entrepreneurs in their early years of starting up are severely sleep deprived, have little time for family or vacation: in short perennially broke both time and money wise. Salma is a pleasant exception to that generalisation. Magical and as hard to achieve as it might seem, hear it from this Phenomenal Woman how she spends her days “My days are never the same, I hate being the kind of person who is driven by the clock. Maybe this is one of the reasons I have never been able to ever do justice to the one year yoga classes I had once so willingly signed up for. I hate to plan what my tomorrow would look like, because my actions never seem to be in sync with the plans executed by the mind. However, a typical day for me would be to obviously wake up to no alarms, which is anytime my eyes choose to open. A quick shower, small little prayer, news while getting ready, drive to work, basic work and employee management and then back home. I’d typically spend 30% of my week watching movies and doing dinners with close friends”

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As ideal as that might sound there is a lot of smart management that goes into living such a balanced life. On asking her about her love for travelling and her favourite holiday destination, she chose Scotland: “I have several favourites but if I have to go with one, I’d say Scotland and its country side. I can never get enough of it. My first experience with Scotland was a long drive through its country side when travelling from Coventry to Edinburgh. Looking at the breath taking view, I knew almost instantly, this place is going to be a part of my romantic fantasies for a very long time to come. I am constantly reminded of the exotic English movies of kings and queens and palaces and ranches that I had watched as a child”

For the ones bit by Entrepreneurial bug, here’s your much required push from The Phenomenal Woman of this Week “I’d say, if you are willing to gamble it, being an entrepreneur is probably one of the best things that can happen to you. The confidence and ego boost are incomparable. And if it clicks the struggle would be totally worth it.”

Share Alishah’s story if it inspired you.

Note: This story is part of The Phenomenal Woman Series launched by Papercup.

 

PHENOMENAL WOMAN: PARAMA GHOSH

Born into a family of lawyers, she had joined the bandwagon only to realise within a few years into the profession that her heart had its own cravings. Meet Parama Ghosh, a lawyer at one of the foremost law firms of India and part-time Entrepreneur.

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In her words “It is like I had to die in depression and I chose a Swiss Alps setting for such death. Keeping cynicism aside, I honestly think law is a great profession for the simple reason that it pays you enough to sponsor your travels, books, food, music and the list of hobbies which if made into a book shall put Mahabharata to shame”.

 But Real estate acquisitions, mergers of giant corporate houses, will, fat briefs and law books can fill the stomach but not the heart. So, one fine serendipitous afternoon, the heart and Parama bumped on to each other. They sat and talked. And she decided to give it its dues. A helpless lover of art and fabric, Ghosh decided to get the two married. She called the marriage: “Stories on fabric” and their love child, “Parama”. That’s how Parama was born. Indigenous art forms are created on fabric and for her, each is a canvas. This phenomenal lady works with local artisans from Bengal to fill those canvases with beauty.

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For her, Parama the brand is an extension of herself: Imperfect, bubbling with ideas, restless, quirky and fun. Everything at Parama is handmade and hence there is no large scale production as she has a day job and a family too. She loves the concept of “home grown” because a part of you reaches someone who takes your products home.

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Parama says “Nostalgia, Calcutta, days when I was just a little girl, things that are ‘every day’ and mundane warms my heart. I imbibe them in my creations as much as I can. While juggling my day job, family, household chores and my passion, I have realised one thing: Life is like a multicoloured crochet pattern. Too many threads look difficult in the beginning. (Some times your pet cat may make things even more difficult by pulling those threads while you work) but in the end, you are left with something beautiful”

She believes happiness is primary and following one’s passion along with a day job acts as the window which brings sunlight home.

Share Parama’s story if it inspired you.

Note: This story is part of The Phenomenal Woman Series launched by Papercup.

PHENOMENAL WOMAN: MOUSUMI KAR CHOWDHURY

The lady who has tried her hand at everything from working as a waitress to an attendant in a book binding store and from a slogan writer to a short stint in an advertising firm: Meet Mousumi Kar Chowdhury who awakened to what brings her true happiness in the process of trying myriad things at a young age. 

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In her quest of gathering varied experiences, she realized that her skills are better attuned towards something beyond just generating profits for the organizations she worked for. At this juncture, it was by chance that she started working as a volunteer for the Alipore Zoo in Kolkata wherein she found her true inner likings. In her words “It dawned upon me, that I’m instinctively protective towards creatures who are forcefully brought or raised in artificial setting”. This insight opened a lot of avenues for her but it was not until she worked as a volunteer for a special school in Kolkata that she decided to carry forward this particular streak in her. And she didn’t look back after that.

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She honed her skills by studying further and it was only after completing her M.Phil in Special Education that she decided to take the plunge. Nearly seven years have passed since then and she is still tirelessly trying to cater to the needs of children with special needs. She is currently working in a school in Muscat, Oman. However, at this place the challenge is a little different. Now, she is working with children who are blessed with average intellect but suffer from learning disorders. A firm believer in the adage Practice makes a man perfect, Mousumi says “If we can train animals to jump through the ring, human beings across the wide spectrum of intelligence can definitely learn through training and appropriate techniques. I enjoy devising new methods for making learning an enjoyable process. Teaching, therefore for me is no less than experimenting on a daily basis.”

What was interesting during this particular interview was that she appeared rather surprised about us showing interest to cover her in our Phenomenal Woman Series. She said that most people say she is a teacher of mad children. She sounded a little disheartened about such insensitivity but strong as she is, she knows how to deal with such comments. 

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Mousumi, mother of a three year old loves reading books and has recently developed a passion for poetry and playing the guitar. When asked for her take on motherhood she said “I don’t like being married but I like being a mother.”

She signed off saying “I thank Papercup for giving me a platform to share my story. Now, that I have shared it I feel I can achieve anything if I dare to. So, go ahead and take the plunge.” 

Share Mousumi’s story if it inspired you.

Note: This story is a part of The Phenomenal Woman Series launched by Papercup.

PHENOMENAL WOMAN: SANJUKTA ROY

The lady who is rediscovering the lost fabrics of India: Meet Sanjukta Roy, Textile Designer and owner of the brand: Sanjukta.

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There are things we see around us everyday yet fail to notice until they vanish into thin air one day. How often do we see gamchhas and lungis? Quite often, right? But if they are not rediscovered, something so familiar yet neglected could just disappear from the country in a few years. Sanjukta, the brand is an attempt to bring these two fabrics back into public imagination and restore a measure of respect for these versatile crafts. 


The beautiful mind behind Sanjukta is Sanjukta Roy. She has been in the industry for 13 years now and has worked in the exports, crafts and domestic sector. There was a point when she ran out of money and had too many bills to pay. But like many of us she was in love with Calcutta and didn’t wish to leave the City of Joy. That was how and when Sanjukta, the brand was born. 

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It is tough to find a brand which is as organic as hers. And by that we do not just refer to the fabrics she is so energetically presenting in the new day wearable form but also the way she markets her brand. In the day of Facebook Advertisements it’s always a pleasure to find people who are growing organically without falling into the temptation of paid likes and Roy is one of them. In her words ‘The wheels have set in motion. It is growing organically without extra efforts on promotion. I believe in producing small amounts. Too much of anything even the most delicious food can make you lose your taste for it.’  


On a regular day, Sanjukta swims, does household chores and studies a bit. She attends visitors to SANJUKTA, goes for Aikido/language class, meets friends and then gets back home. She wraps up her day by either watching some TV series or studying some more. As regular as that sounds, the lady is way beyond that. Responsible for bringing back the visibility of The Gamchha in such a fashionable way Roy is the one who is showing the city and beyond the organic way of seeing life. And that is as phenomenal an act as the woman herself. 

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Her words of wisdom for anyone who wishes to become an Entrepreneur, ‘Take a good long vacation before you want to make that strike. Plan well but do not expect it to go all well always. Hang in there even when you think it’s too much work and too little money. Stick by your principles even when bullied, discouraged by your ‘own’ people. Learn to find faults with your baby’.
Share Sanjukta’s story if it inspired you.
Note: This story is a part of The Phenomenal Woman Series launched by Papercup.

PHENOMENAL WOMAN: ROSHNI ALI

A world of talent packed into a single body: Athlete, Model, Theatrician and Entrepreneur: Meet Roshni Ali from Let’s Laser Tag and The Caravan. 

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Born into an interesting family, Roshni learnt at a tender age that she was different from others. As a 10 year old she had mind struggles which some of us might not be able to handle at thrice her age. Pioneer of Advertising Photography in India, Ahmed Ali’s youngest daughter, Roshni Ali had a childhood which was steeped in the world of imagination and make believe.

The best part about phenomenal people is that they open up about their darkest fears and struggles and how they have overcome those. Roshni did not come from an average family. Her father was 72 years old when she started school. Her mother was relatively younger, say around 45. She opened up saying ‘I faced a lot of awkward questions, some embarrassing ones too which I did not know how to deal with: my parents age, my father’s marriages, sister and so on. It wasn’t bullying but something so subtle that it was difficult to handle.’ 


Though self worth would seem like a complex problem to most of us even now, Ms Ali knew it in and out at a very tender age. She realized she was different and embracing it made her a more confident person. In her words ‘Early days in school, I did not like my Father dropping me. However, my father was a driving force in me achieving all my endless certificates and medals. He came and cheered me at every event. I started feeling proud my Dad is different, my family is NOT normal.’ 

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Apart from this emotional victory, young Ali from La Martiniere for Girls is a great athlete. In school she was introduced to the thrill of sports. Swimming, Basketball, Running, Badminton; you name it and there she was, first on the field! She was honoured as the Best Sports Person (2008) by The Telegraph School Award and received Awards for Excellence in Athletics and Certificate of Honour from Ashihara Karate International. Her years in school was remarkable and shaped her into the woman she is now. Prefect in her final year of school and Captain of the School Swimming and Dance Team, Roshni said ‘I’m so indebted to my school. I entered La Martiniere for Girls as a little naughty girl with pig tails; but left as a proud confident woman.’

She did Mass Communication from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata where she fell in love with media, cinema and the camera. The imaginative little girl finally found her ultimate playground, the world of make believe. That is where she fell in love with films. Though presently she is not doing anything related to that field she hopes she will eventually get into writing and directing somewhere down the line. Roshni did not stop being as active as she was during her school days. In college she was one of the founding members of LOK, a renowned Theatre group, held the post of Joint Secretary of the Xavier’s Film Academy, won first prize in still narrative and short film categories in IMAGO 2011. 


While juggling theater and direction in college, there was one other thing that came naturally to her and that was modeling. When she was young her dad, Photography Legend Ahmed Ali used to take photos of her. Hence, she became comfortable with the lens at an early age. When Mass Communication happened, every student needed to make movies and she was asked to act in a few. 

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Her first wave of modeling came from CLEAN AND CLEAR FRESH FACE. She won from St. Xavier’s and was sent to Mumbai to audition. 10 lac students participated (that’s what their website said) and she made it into the Final Four with terrible jaundice. Even in this field Roshni has an extremely clear preference. She said ‘I hate professional assignments. There is zero creativity. I have done ads for Vivel, Happy Dent, local Saree shops etc. Most of my great shots are taken by my friends, who want to do experimental photography. Till today, I enjoy working for independent photographers for creative shots, used mainly for their portfolio or website.’ As a model, she was lucky to work with Kaustav Saikia. He is someone who plays beautifully with natural expressions and the zero effortlessness feeling in photos.  


Post college she was recruited with her friends to work in Bangalore. She hated her job. But her job being dull and boring turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It gave Kolkata its first ever Laser Tag arena. When we asked her how the idea came to her, she said lightly ‘You could credit Taylor Swift for giving the idea of Laser Tag! I’ll explain…..so when we went to play Laser Tag. I was shocked to hear Love Story being played. Once we were done, I was like ‘wtf’! Xerxes (her partner) and I started talking. One thing led to another. In two months we quit our job and were in Kolkata!’ That’s how Let’s Laser Tag was founded. Then the place needed food for laser tag: so there was a need for a kitchen. Most people would love to eat delicious food and puff on some hookah after a game of Laser Tag. And that’s how rooftop café, The Caravan was born. Currently they are in talks with a few cities offering franchise and revenue sharing modules. Let’s hope she has something concrete to announce super soon. 

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On a regular day Roshni wakes up and has morning tea with her Mom and Dad followed by a walk by the lake or hits the gym. Early afternoon she goes for work where she meets clients and does some official paper work. By evening she chills at The Caravan. Right now Laser Tag is picking up again after a significant drop a few months back. The latest addition to the game: Sumo and Galaxy Drift Boards. If you have to organize a party here is where you should put your money. Parties at Let’s Laser Tag are a rage! 

 

You can explore an ancient Mayan battle ground with heart pumping music, spectacular art and the most reputed Laser Tag equipments. You can throw Birthday parties availing the numerous packages with food and snacks, customized League and Knockout Tournaments. Roshni’s Team will also design return gifts, invites etc according to your needs. The game is also ideal for team building, on spot strategy making, honing leadership skills. It will have your employees buzzing for weeks. We recommend Let’s Laser Tag! to be one of the best places to host a Corporate Event. Managers, next time you are looking for something different to de-stress your employees, you know who to call.


In spite of the thrill and awesomeness Entrepreneurship has its dark sides. It is never a constant party. Even though Roshni loves being her own boss, the obligations are plenty. It is a task to keep spirits up in tough times. She confided in us ‘Kolkata has so many people who copy the exact same concept and open at your door step. So that’s what happened. While we were shut and reallocating from our previous arena at Camac Street to our new one at Lord Sinha Road, another two popped up. The one next to us gave so many people such bad experience with their tiny maze and bad equipment; that when we reopened the new one, we had to convince people it’s nothing like you have experienced.’ 

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The little girl who was born in a beautiful old bungalow which had a pond with ducks on Jhowtala Road (Near Ice Skating Ring), Calcutta is now a full-grown Phenomenal Woman. She has a strong message, a message which is as different as her family and her dreams. Here’s what she had to say to fellow women ‘Stop pretending to be a man. Stop the stupid wave of Feminism which says you are the same, you are equal. You are not. You are different! Embrace your feminine side, there are some things we do better. We often feel we are living constantly on these railway tracks, where paths cannot be broken, that the road ahead is set. Don’t listen. There will always be people discouraging you from doing what you want. It’s impossible to keep everyone happy; you need to break free to become a trail blazer!

Phenomenal, isn’t she?

Share Roshni’s story if it inspired you.

Note: This story is part of The Phenomenal Woman Series launched by Papercup.
 

PHENOMENAL WOMAN: BRINDA SARKAR

The Girl who has covered rock concerts for bands like Metallica and Guns N Roses, test driven Audis, covered international car rallies, tourism in Hong Kong and Marathon runs in The Andamans: Meet Brinda Sarkar from The Telegraph.

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She has experiences where she has crawled into the huts of slum-dwellers, gone undercover into police stations, covered elections and interviewed the Khans of Bollywood, all in a day’s work. But in her words ‘What I love writing on most are stories with a human interest and the ‘Me & My Pet’ column for the Salt Lake edition of The Telegraph. My aim at the end of the day is to gain the trust of those I am meeting for my stories and to gain credibility among readers’

Before joining The Telegraph as a Journalist Brinda was a Mass Communications student at International School of Business & Media after which she worked with The Statesman briefly as an Intern. On asking if Journalism was always her career choice she said ‘It was a process of elimination. I had opted for commerce during graduation but was not enjoying it at all. Instead I would find myself reading every newspaper and magazine that came home, cover to cover, and would watch current affairs programs on TV. I thought this was my calling.’

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Along with Journalism, she practices Kathak for an hour daily. She is learning the Bhagwad Gita at a Sunday class and tries to go over the scriptures every morning. This young lady has a fine balance between work and play, stress and relief. Along with her boyfriend, she feeds street dogs meat and rice every day. She chips in with biscuits, which she makes it a point to carry in her bag for dogs. She adds ‘I always carry chocolates for beggars. I believe there is a begging racket that snatches money away from them so I only give food.’

Some of Brinda’s articles which made us feature her as a Phenomenal Woman are: Interviewed 100-year-old people and got first-hand accounts of what we learn in history books, interviewed an Aparthied survivor from South Africa, a story with a juggler preparing for the Guinness World Record and an intellectually disabled boy who has won a medal for India at the Special Olympics.

You can follow some of her articles here:

When she wrote about women’s empowerment: But not before she stood up to an eve teaser and dragged him to the cops. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150110/jsp/calcutta/story_7708.jsp  

When she wrote about saving the environment: But not before she slogged for days removing garbage from empty plots.  http://www.telegraphindia.com/1130503/jsp/saltlake/story_16851036.jsp#.VdylHyWqqko

When she wrote about people with disabilities: But not before getting to know them and being convinced that the word “disability” is a misnomer. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150821/jsp/saltlake/story_38185.jsp#.VdymwiWqqko

She says ‘I’ve taken each story as it came and reported all with equal enthusiasm’

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Her advice for women who wish to take up Journalism as a career: ‘If someone wants to be a journalist, he/she should not stop to check if he/she is male or female. Gender is incidental. This is not a labour intensive job where one needs biceps. It’s about presence of mind, about being daring, caring and about persistence. One should decide to be a journalist only if she believes that the pen is mightier than the sword. That’s the only way she can be honest in her work. This job may entail any kind of reporting, from covering film premiere parties to clashes between political parties. Neither is easy and both are equally important. One must respect one’s work and enjoy it’

She signed off saying ‘I’m forever learning from my stories. I teach street kids when I can; I feed street dogs when I find them. I tell people politely not to throw the empty packet of chips on the road. I don’t always win but it doesn’t matter as long as I have tried. I can’t do everything. But what I can do, I must’

Share Brinda’s story if it inspired you.

Note: This story is part of The Phenomenal Woman Series launched by Papercup.