IN A little black dress and with a chiffon scarf around her head, it’s hard to miss Alisha Abdullah at the race tracks. Most men, however, don’t remember the petite 23-year-old from Chennai for her looks. They have tasted defeat at her hands. She is India’s only woman superbike racer. It’s hard to picture her on a bike that weighs four times more than she does. But when she waves the muscles on her arm ripple. “I can do 52 push-ups a minute,” Alisha says. She trains for five hours a day.
The daughter of seven time national champion bike racer RA Abdullah, Alisha was introduced to Go-Karting at 9. She won the MRF National Go-Karting Championship at 13. In 2004, she switched to bikes at her father’s suggestion.
On 15 February 2009, at the 12th JK Tyre National Racing Championship, she went flying off her 600 cc Honda CBR. The last thing she remembers is applying the brakes. She was unconscious for more than two hours before finally being resuscitated. Two months later, she was back at the track and went on to finish third at the National Championship.
“When I started racing, I was scared of men. They’d push me off the track. Now, I’m the bully,” she laughs, “You make me cry, I’m going to make you cry.”
The chauvinism on the tracks doesn’t bother her anymore. “When a man overtakes me on the road, it’s bad enough, but when a girl overtakes me, I get really furious. I have to overtake her,” she confesses. “So I can imagine what men must feel on the track.”
Her ambition is to start a club to train women racers. As we say goodbye, she’s suddenly distracted by her phone. “Sorry, I like taking pictures of myself,” she giggles, and for a moment, there’s a glimpse of the girl whose mother anxiously sees her off with the warning, “Alisha, drive slowly, be careful, be safe.”