From a national level sportsman to an entrepreneur to a social worker, Xerxes Diniar Irani’s CV is as variegated as a busy Manhattan street on a Friday evening.
Hailing from Cuttack and an alumnus of Stewart School, Xerxes made history by becoming the first-ever contestant from Odisha to qualify for the ‘Culling Round’ of the popular reality TV series Roadies Real Heroes.
The 27-year-old former basketball player was pitted against another hopeful participant during the auditions but, in the end, it was Xerxes’ patience and physical abilities that impressed the likes of Rannvijay Singh, Neha Dhupia and Sandeep Singh, seeing him through to the next round.
When asked what made him venture onto a completely different path from what he has travelled before, Xerxes said that he wanted to put Odisha and the Odia youth, who have been grossly underrepresented in national media, on the map.
“Roadies is a platform where you can showcase your talent,” said Xerxes in an exclusive interview with Orissa POST. “I want to become a youth icon and represent my state. Basically, I want to gain some popularity and mileage because I want to use that to promote a sports academy which I am hoping to open very soon.”
“Secondly, it’s a childhood dream come true since I have grown up watching Roadies on TV,” he added. “As someone who loves the outdoors, adventure sports and anything that challenges my physical capabilities, Roadies was the perfect fit for me.”
Xerxes belongs to a family that is steeped in sports. His father, Diniar Parvez Irani, is a former Olympian who was part of the Indian national basketball team in its only Olympic appearance at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. His mother, Gayatri Devi Irani, a princess belonging to the Ranpur royal family, is a former national level basketball player as well. If that wasn’t enough, his sister Dilnawaz is a former district level swimmer.
After completing his schooling, Xerxes studied for two years at Ravenshaw University before moving to St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata for his graduation. A stint with Decathlon Sports was followed by an entrepreneurial job that saw him open one of eastern India’s first Laser Tag arenas.
A social worker as well, Xerxes was involved with ‘Bridges of Sport,’ an NGO primarily focused on offering a platform to promote sporting excellence among remote and tribal communities in India.
“My long term goal is to start a sports academy,” Xerxes continued. “I want to show everyone what I am capable of and bring Odisha on the map. At the national level, the youth of Odisha is not just underrepresented but also misunderstood, which is something I want to rectify.”
“I also want to open a channel on YouTube and Instagram where I would be able to motivate people to pick up sports as a profession or just as a hobby to live a healthier lifestyle,” he added.
Having worked with charities before, the ambitious boy from Cuttack also plans to register his own sports based NGO soon.
“Starting my own NGO is definitely on the cards. Basically, I want to cater to promoting sports at the grassroots level, providing support through equipment, coaches, training facilities and identifying talent in rural India,” he said.
Xerxes believes that being on national television would give him the opportunity to create a public identity that could help him implement his ambitious projects.
Describing his experience in the Roadies studios, Xerxes concluded: “It was exhilarating, it was exciting, it was like a dream. Meeting so many talented people from all across India was beyond exceptional.”
“Besides, meeting Rannvijay, former Indian hockey captain Sandeep Singh, and Neha Dhupia was an amazing experience,” he said.