Motorcyclist Aishwarya Pissay loves living her life in the fast lane. Yet for the winner of four national championship titles, convicing her near and dear ones about making a career in motoracing was a rather slow process. “I come from a very conservative family,” the 22-year-old from Bengaluru says during her visit to the city.”The only reason I’m getting to do what I want do is because my parents are divorced. My mum feels that I should explore the world and see what I can do,” she adds.
Riding bikes was always a hobby for Aishwarya, often embarking upon weekend trips from Bengaluru with her friends. The hobby tag changed about four years ago, when she took part in a show for a TV channel wherein contestants had to travel for 24 days from Rann of Kutch to Cherrapunji.
During those 24 days, she realised motor racing was her true calling.
Aishwarya began training professionally in 2015, “failed miserably” in her maiden race in February 2016 but has since made steady progress in the national circuit, which made sponsors take notice and support her financially.
“My friends wanted me to take up a regular job, just for security and stability,” she recalls.
“Ever since I started, I was always warned that I cannot not make this a career. But I didn’t listen to anybody. Over time, everybody is seeing the progress, and are supportive. I can now tell them that I’ve made a career out of it,” she adds.
Career by an aspirational, care-free woman in a sport perceived to be male-dominated, to be precise.
“It’s just called a male-dominated sport because women were not supported to ride a couple of years ago,” she is quick to retort.
“When I started training, there were probably one or two woman riders. There was nothing for women riders back then. I was trained to race with men,” she adds.
Most of her competitors still comprise men, and matching their fitness levels is a challenge for Aishwarya. She trains seven days a week in Bengaluru in pursuit of that, four days involving racing and the other three focussing on physical, mental conditioning and nutrition.
The hard work is starting to show.
Aishwarya became the first woman from India to compete in the popular Baja Aragon rally earlier this year in Spain, which was her first rally outside the country.
Her moment of ecstasy quickly turned into agony, though, her bike crashing barely 10m before the finish line. She thought she’d broken her ribs, barely a year after she broke her collarbone.
Yet, she picked up her bike and finished the race.
It turned out she had ruptured her pancreas, an injury that took two-and-a-half months to recover, though she has began riding again for the last one month.
Broken collarbones and ruptured pancreas notwithstanding, Aishwarya has little skepticism about the dangers associated with motoracing.
“Hey, walking down the stairs if you fall, you’ll break a bone. Might as well do what you like and break a bone, right?” she says.
Aishwarya took part in 24 races last year of various forms (road races, rallies, cross-country races et al ), cutting it down to 14 this season to focus more on rallies.
She won’t slow down until she reaches her dream destination – the Dakar Rally.
“That’s my ultimate goal. That’s where I want to go, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. And I’m willing to put all the efforts to get there,” she says.
Things you like to do when not racing:
I travel a lot, so I love to be on the road. I also sketch a bit when I get the time.
Craziest comment you’ve received on being a motoracer:
You look too innocent to be doing all this. And I was like, ‘Hey, that’s my Instagram profile’.