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