Fazi and Friends: Muslim Woman biker from Kerala lives her Raid dream with help from pals

Fazeela Uppilathodi from Kerala is accompanied by Jose Sebastian and Vishnu in realizing her racing dream to take part in the Raid de Himalaya.

Fazeela (centre) had to sell her Tempo Traveller in order to arrange flight tickets for the Raid de Himalaya.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A Muslim woman biker from Kerala, Fazeela Uppilathodi, passionate about competing at the Raid de Himalaya - the highest motorsport event in the world. A Christian workshop owner at Cochin, Jose Sebastian. His Hindu mechanic-cum-partner, Vishnu V Vinyan. And a Tempo Traveller used extensively in the devastating Kerala flood in August for rescue, transportation and food distribution.

These four came together to make possible Fazeela's Raid adventure this year. The Tempo Traveller was purchased by Fazeela, Jose and Vishnu in May 2018. The transport vehicle is part of the story because in a distress sale in September end, Fazeela and her pals sold it. They needed the money to finance her flight tickets, entry fee and other expenses at the Raid de Himalaya.

Raid de Himalaya will be organized from October 8 to October 14. It will begin from Leh. Fazeela, called Fazi by friends, is currently in Leh. The 28-year-old is training for competing at the Raid by riding long distance in high altitudes.

Read: Two amputees to compete on motor-bikes in Raid De Himalaya 2018

Fazeela has been in competitive motorsport racing for close to two years now. In this short period, she was second among women bikers at the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC), 2017.

This year, Fazeela has participated in five rounds of INRC. She is eagerly waiting for the last round of the championship, to be held in October end.

Fazeela’s Raid dream has been made possible by her friends Jose Sebastian and Vishnu. Sebastian is owner of Cog Racing, a workshop in Cochin. He recalls that in November 2016, Fazeela came to his workshop to get some work done on her motorbike.

“She was practicing stunts on her bike. She asked us how she could do good stunts. I told her I didn’t know stunts, but could train her for racing,” says Sebastian. His workshop prepares bikes for motorsport racing events.

Also Read: Motorsport titans of India gear up for Raid de Himalaya

With just four days of practice, Fazeela stood first in women’s category at a bike race held in Cochin in November 2016. Jose says Fazeela is not a biker with loads of practice in how to ride. “She has natural talent. She can focus completely on the track, and knows how to take risks. When she is at a race, she gives it her best,” says Jose.

Fazeela, Jose and Vishnu managed to go for all INRC rounds last year in trains and buses. This year, the trio purchased the Tempo Traveller so that going for motorsport races would be convenient.

During an INRC round last year, Fazeela had met Sarah Kashyap, the biker from Chandigarh. Kashyap has carved a niche for herself in the largely exclusive male world of competitive motorsport racing on bikes.

“Sarah urged me to come for Raid de Himalaya, and consistently gave me courage. But arranging money to come for the Raid was a huge problem,” she says.

In a stroke of good luck, TVS Racing offered Fazeela the use of their bike, TVS Apache RTR 200 for competing at Raid de Himalaya. For her travel and other expenses, Fazeela and her friends sold the Tempo Traveller.

The videos of the flood rescue work, taken by Jose’s friends in August, show the group going around in about two feet of water in a shiny white Tempo Traveller, with posters on its windows. ‘Kerala Flood Rescue Mission’.

Fazeela has been competing in the INRC rounds in a Hero Impulse given to her by Vishnu. “If TVS Racing had not offered Fazi the bike, we would have arranged a racing bike for her somehow,” says Jose.

Fazeela works as a fitness trainer, and is also skilled in yoga and meditation techniques. She has a five-year-old daughter, Isha Finha, who has staying with Fazeela’s foster parents at Calicut while Fazeela is at the Raid.

Raid de Himalaya is the flagship rally of the country's premier motorsport club, Shimla-based Himalayan Motorsport. The Raid began in 1999, and will witness its 20th edition this year.

President Himalayan Motorsport Vijay Parmar said that over the last two decades, he has witnessed how competing at the Raid is a dream for motorsport enthusiasts.

“It torments their sleep for six months of the year. They go the last mile to try and put everything together. Some of these competitors have been out on the first day. It is amazing to see that whoever fails at the Raid is among the first batch of competitors to mark their entry the next year,” said Parmar.

The Raid will run from October 8 to October 14, on some of the highest roads of Ladakh, Kargil and Zanskar sectors.

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