We walked into the venue of Alisha Abdullah’s racing academy launch on a wet, wet day. An older gentleman in a bright blue shirt was on the piano, playing a song that obviously held deep meaning for him. Before we could get closer to investigate, a bold dash of colour grabbed our attention.
There was no evidence of the biker chick in the Alisha Abdullah we saw yesterday. In a neat pink blazer and with her hair in an intricate braid, she looked like your average fashion conscious Chennai-ite. Albeit one with a higher purpose. After ushering us inside, she went away to pose for the photographers. Hashtag pretty in pink.
When Alisha’s father arrived with one of the guests of the evening – Akbar Ebrahim, the father of Indian Moto Sports – the event began. Akbar has literally seen Alisha grow – from that of a child obsessed with racing to a woman who has raced with the best of them. The fact that she has never considered her gender a ‘restriction’ and has excelled in what is essentially a man’s sport is an immense source of pride to both Akbar and Abdullah. “Motor sports is not the easiest place for anybody, much less a young girl. She could have thrown a fit about many things, but she bore it all stoically and it is this strength that will help her with this new initiative of hers,” said a beaming Akbar on stage.
When it was Alisha’s time to speak, she used it wisely. She spoke of the time when she felt intimidated at the races in Thailand; a ‘smaller’ country than India. “I thought I would easily finish in the top three, but I was beaten by eight very powerful women racers. I couldn’t compete on the same level and it got me thinking. What do they have that we Indian girls don’t?”
It was with this aim – to provide talented racers in India the guidance needed to survive in races abroad – that the academy was started. “I have been thinking about this for over three years. After a lot of brainstorming sessions with dad and mom, it was only this year that I could finally set up something concrete.” Alisha plans to recruit a hundred students for the academy and provide free training for them. And she will be doing this while juggling her successful and ‘satisfying’ racing career and the cinema opportunities too. “I want to use my stardom for the betterment and empowerment of women. When my film released, many women got in touch with me and asked me to help them drive super-bikes. It’s this need that I want to satisfy.”
The academy was then duly launched by Renuka David, Bruce Schwack and Ashok Verghese.
Alisha hopes to begin the school soon and if all goes well, she will also embark on an extensive promotional tour to publicise it.