Biker girl Alisha Abdullah on meeting the challenges in her dream job, the pressures of keeping fit and the unbridled joy of racing.
Alisha Abdullah can't read her friends' ‘Good Day' SMSs until the day is far spent — she is that busy. A new and exciting responsibility keeps her occupied throughout the day. The poster girl for motor racing is now Harley Davidson's sales manager and chrome consultant for Tamil Nadu.
“I wish I had 48 hours in a day,” rues Alisha, her eyes darting to her wristwatch. After a protracted photo shoot with a set of Harleys, she is running late for the gym. “I am a fitness fanatic and extremely conscientious about my evening workouts. You know, I used to bunk classes and go to the gym,” she reveals before requesting that we catch up another day to complete the interview.
Meeting the challenges in her dream job — also her first — has obviously added to the pressures of keeping fit and practising for the race track. While the avalanche of meetings, training programmes and brainstorming sessions has required her to make major adjustments, she is excited about this new development. She does not think she has been pitch-forked into the world of sales reports and ledgers. Even before Harley found her, commerce beckoned. For some time, her father R.A. Abdullah had been asking her to get involved in his business: a Castrol dealership and distributorship for Chennai and Tamil Nadu.
Having studied at the Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA), Alisha is comfortable with all the sales-speak that swirls around her. “At the end of the day, it's a job that is connected with bikes and why wouldn't I love that?” asks Alisha. Being a chrome consultant allows her to direct and manage a team of technicians that will customise the Harleys in line with buyers' preferences.
Alisha has cut down on various activities to meet the mounting responsibilities. A tennis player — who was at one point considered good enough for State-level tournaments — she gave up playing the sport when new racing commitments came her way. One of them is the Volkswagen Polo Cup India championship, in which she has shown consistent improvement. “In 2010, I finished tenth in the championship. This year, I finished seventh. More significantly, I ended up on the podium in one of the races. At Coimbatore, I finished third behind Vishnu Prasad and Mihir. Leading the race for the most part, I let the two slip past me before the last three laps.”
Making the change
Having switched from bikes to cars not very long ago, Alisha is still learning the ropes. “It'll take time to master certain skills,” says the 22-year-old girl, who made such a switch — however, in the other direction — early in her career.
Before she entered bike racing in 2004, she raced karts and cars. “It was a decision entirely authored by my father. It was tough switching to two-wheelers but I did it. As an ace biker, my father trained me and made it easy for me. He is a tough taskmaster and does not mince words when I fare badly in a race as a result of silly errors. He has instilled the discipline that has made me a fast learner,” says Alisha.
From low-powered bikes, she graduated to super bikes and made an impression. She bowed out of the motorcycling circuit in style. In 2009, she rode a 600cc Honda and finished third in the JK Tyre National Superbike Championship.
Over the years, she has witnessed significant changes in Indian motor racing. “When I began as a karter, I was teased for being the only girl in a fray. I still compete with the boys, but now nobody notices the fact. Now, in the motor sports circuit, girls and boys are treated as equals,” explains Alisha, who believes more women will take to the sport if they realise they can challenge men on the track.
Whenever someone cites the biological factor, Alisha says fitness can level the differences. “I can perform 40 to 50 push-ups at one go. I challenged a guy to it and won,” she exults. “Women stay weak because they are taught to think they will always be weaker than men. They just have to look at the women athletes to know it is a lie.”
Not just keeping fit, Alisha is equally focused on looking good. “I spend a large part of every Sunday on grooming myself. When you are in the public eye and are a role model for youngsters, you have to take care of your appearance.”
Her good looks and fame are bound to bring endorsements and modelling assignments her way. “It is a big no to modelling — I have already turned down an assignment,” says the petite racer. “From this year, I will seriously look at endorsement offers.”
This means Alisha will get busier still.