Alisha Abdullah, India’s First Woman Bike Racer

Breaking Gender Barriers

In recent times, a number of bold and talented women have stood up to gender stereotypes in the country and defied centuries old notions of what a woman “can do”. Increasingly, young women from various parts of India are opting for challenging and far-from-conventional careers. A career in sports is one such example. About a couple of decades ago, phrases such as fitness, regimen, workout, sports circuit, speed, and even ambition were not part of the Indian woman’s vocabulary. A new crop of sportswomen including the likes of Mary Kom, Sania Mirza, and Saina Nehwal have changed the dynamics in domestic sport circuits. Alisha Abdullah has, however, taken one leap ahead and taken India right into the heart of bike and car racing circuits across the world.

Who is Alisha Abdullah?

Born in July 1989, Alisha Abdullah distinguished herself by becoming the nation’s first racing champion. Born and educated in Chennai, Alisha is the only woman super bike racer from the country. A regular speed junkie, she loves go-karting, bike racing, and car racing equally. Daughter of a renowned biker, Alisha has taken motor racing in the country to an all new level. This Schumacher fan not only dreams of beating all the men in the circuit but is often by far better toned and fitter than men she comes across. Alisha is now a global icon – a representative of women across the world and the owner of a motor racing academy in the country.

A Glorious Legacy

Alisha’s love of racing is a legacy handed down to her by her illustrious father R A Abdullah who has himself been one of India’s top bike racers. Abdullah bagged the national bike racing championship seven times in his career. It is not much of a surprise, then, that Alisha fell in love with racing at an early age. At the age of 7, her father bought her a custom designed 60cc 2 stroke bike. He also took Alisha to Singapore and trained her in Go-Karting. The beautiful young racer holds her father in high esteem and calls him her inspiration and role model.

From Karting to Biking to Car Racing

In 2003, at the age of 13, Alisha Abdullah tasted success as she won the MRF National Go-Karting Championship. Soon after, she took up bike racing seriously. Alisha seems to have been interested in car racing right from her teens. Following her win, Alisha took to car racing and was awarded the Best Novice Award at the national level Formula Car Racing (open class). In 2004, she managed to bag the fifth position in the JK Tyre National Championship, 2004.

Bike racing, however, seemed the logical step forward since her father was her guide and mentor. Besides, bike racing was less expensive. At the age of 18, Alisha’s father gifted her a suit similar to the one worn by international biker Valentino Rossi. The suit inspired Alisha to go further in the world of racing. In 2008, however, a bad bike accident led her to abandon the bike in favour of car racing. In 2011, she participated in the Volkswagen National Polo Cup and was the first woman to make it to the podium. Apart from these, Alisha has bagged a number of other accolades in both bike and car racing championships.

Women Racing Academy

In 2014, Alisha Abdullah launched a racing academy exclusively for Women in her hometown, Chennai. The aim of the Alisha Abdullah Racing Academy for Women is to train an entire generation of women bikers and car racers to compete in various national and international level racing circuits. The idea of launching the academy came from the realization that women in the country have no opportunities to learn and coach for pro racing, and are bereft of the expert training Alisha received from her father. The academy has partnered with Hindustan University and offers its members a Degree in Motorsports Engineering. Alisha believes that soon the country will see a new crop of spectacular bike and car racers who will make India proud at international circuits.

Representing the FIM Women’s Commission

Earlier this month, the Federation of International Motorcycling appointed Alisha as its representative in India for women in motorcycling. Her name was proposed by the Federation of Motor Sport Club of India and being the Indian representative of the FIM Women in Motorcycling Commission is a great honour for her. Prior to this announcement, Alisha Abdullah had been invited to attend the women bikers training held in Spain for about 2 years. That did not become possible due to visa issues. Not only is Alisha now the global face for Indian women in motorsports, but is also a major inspiration for girls who dream of racing and breaking stereotypes.

Racing Track to Silver Screen

Living at the heart of Kollywood, and given her impeccably maintained fitness levels, it is not a surprise that Alisha gravitated towards modelling and the silver screen. She made her debut in Tamil movies with the Atharvaa, Priya Anand starrer Irumbu Kuthirai (Iron Horse). Director Yuvaraj Bose cast Aslisha as a female bike gangster. This short brush with the silver screen in 2016 opened various avenues for Alisha Abdullah and she has now signed up to play an important role in the Vijay Antony starrer Saithan. The movie is being directed by Prathi Krishnamurthy and is slated for a 2016 release.