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‘Racing is the way I live and breathe’

Murali Gopalan | Updated on January 18, 2018

Eyeing big Aishwarya Pissay on the racing track

Aishwarya Pissay loves life on the fast lane and is an integral part of TVS Racing

It was barely four months ago when Aishwarya Pissay had her collar bone dislocated in a road accident. This happened when she was en route to her gym in Bengaluru and a speeding cab knocked her off her bike.

Even while the surgery was being carried out, all that was on Aishwarya’s mind was a motorcycle racing event that she was due to participate in. To her relief, it had been postponed by three days and she did not think twice before getting on to her bike and finishing first in one race and second in the next.

Her doctor learnt of this only after reading the newspapers! From her point of view, the race was priority even if it meant getting on to a bike barely a few days after cracking her collar bone.

That is Aishwarya Pissay for you. All of 22 years old with the grit and determination that would put anyone twice her age to shame. “All that was running in my head was the championship the following week and not the pain in my neck,” she recalls.

Now an integral part of TVS Racing (the racing arm of TVS Motor Company), Aishwarya has all the time in the world to pursue her passion of motorcycle racing. She has participated in rallies, won trophies and is now dreaming of the real big one at Dakar, an annual rally raid organised by the Amaury Sport Organisation, which should hopefully happen in some years.

Inspired by MotoGP

It is not as if this Bengaluru-based racer grew up dreaming about bikes. The trigger was watching MotoGP on television to get her adrenaline pumping. “I would get goosebumps seeing these races but never discussed this with anyone,” says Aishwarya. Perhaps, this had to do with the fact that bike racing was essentially a man’s domain.

Oddly enough, it was a setback in academics that propelled her to follow her dreams more aggressively. “I did not do too well in my 12th standard exams and wanted to be a better version of myself while not letting anyone put me down, says Aishwarya. “This was when I found my passion with motorcycles.”

It was only a matter of time before she learnt to ride a bike and get her licence when she turned 18. Her first ride in Nandi Hills on the outskirts of Bengaluru was “pure exhilaration” and the adrenaline rush was a high by itself. “This is something I crave for when I ride even today,” she says.

Weekend trips on bikes soon became part of the course while the next big trip was from the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat to Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. This was part of a 24-day marathon with four teams participating in the event.

“We went all the way to Puducherry down south and then to Assam, which was an awesome experience,” says Aishwarya. “Racing has changed me as a person and I am truly different today.”

The other big trip was doing a solo race of 2,500 km in 36 hours. This was a stretch from Bengaluru-Pune-Bengaluru-Coimbatore and then back to Bengaluru. Once again, it left her feeling on top of the world.

However, it was in February 2016 when she “failed miserably” in a race (she finished fourth) that Aishwarya decided to reboot herself. “I did not want to feel like this again and this is when the focus on fitness began,” she says.

By this time, there was no question that this passion would be her calling in life. “Racing is the way I live and breathe,” says Aishwarya. “To me, it is a sense of being free and not being asked to do anything. It’s just me and my bike by the end of the day.”

The initial period on a motorcycle did get her needless extra attention from other racers because here was a girl in an essentially all-male territory. However, things are “absolutely normal” now with people respecting her for what she is.

Support from TVS

It is also here that TVS Racing has played a big part in helping Aishwarya pursue her passion. She is quick to admit that she would not have achieved so much had it not been for the company’s unstinting support ever since she came on board last year.

“Since I do both rallying and circuit racing, TVS has been more than happy in supporting me with both,” says Aishwarya. “They have always been there for me.”

Prior to being part of TVS Racing, she had participated on her own in a Raid De Himalaya rally for the first time in 2016 where she nearly killed herself. “I rode with literally no brakes and gears,” says Aishwarya. “It was about survival eventually and seeing people stranded en route was not something I wanted to be part of. All that was on my mind was to finish the race.”

In 2017, this time with TVS Racing, she was back for Raid De Himalaya but better prepared “with the best team and bike to support me”. Memories came flooding back of the previous year’s experience but this time around, things were different on the RTR 200.

Aishwarya used to do part-time modelling before racing became a complete passion leaving her little time for anything else. Yet, she manages time for the occasional film where strong women themes such as Mary Kom and Dangal have struck a chord. “I do think films like these show how women can push themselves and what they are capable of achieving,” she says.

Lot to do for Women

Aishwarya admires actress Priyanka Chopra who is her role model in more ways than one. After all, she has made a name for herself beyond the shores of India and is now among the biggest global faces in the entertainment industry.

The young racer also believes that a lot more should be done for the cause of women in motorsport, which will be huge source of inspiration. “It is a challenging sport, which needs to be better recognised and supported in India,” she says. “I would like to see more women come into this space.”

Things seem to be changing now, albeit very slowly. The other day, Aishwarya was sitting at an airport when somebody came up to her asking if she could pose for a joint picture. This kind of recognition is still rare for women in an arena like motorsport quite unlike the growing adulation in tennis and badminton.

For now, Aishwarya has one big target that she has set for itself. “My goal is Dakar and I am preparing for it big time and be a better version of myself,” she says. “Dakar is the ultimate dream for any rider.” It is the most gruelling rally in the world but this 22-year-old is determined to realise her dream soon.

Published on January 18, 2018

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