Aishwarya Pissay‘s journey to becoming a moto racer is bound to leave people awestruck, especially in a country like India where even a slightly different career trajectory can open floodgates of arguments from parents, relatives and society in general. And here we are, with Aishwarya not only harbouring the dream of becoming a motorcycle racer but also winning trophies for the country.
Winning the world title and becoming the first Indian to do so
This 24-year-old is the first Indian to win a world title in motorsport on motorcycles. She participated in the FIM Bajas World Cup and secured first place in the women’s category and second in the junior’s category. Talking about her feat and what it means to her, she tells SheThePeople.TV, “I am using it to educate people about motorsports and also putting India on the map of motorsports globally,” adding that being a pioneer she never had a reference or somebody to look up to. “I am extremely happy to be that one person for other men and women to look up to and think, ‘we can achieve this’,” says Aishwarya.
Talking about how the motorsports culture for women is outside of India, she notes, “Motorsports are really celebrated among all genders outside of India. I remember when I won and I was up there on the stage, everyone out there including all the athletes were cheering for me. And it was the first time an Indian had achieved something like this amongst them so everybody was extremely happy and supportive.”
Challenges of choosing motorcycle racing as a career
Starting out with road racing and then gradually moving to motorcycle off-road rally racing, Aishwarya has come a long way since she first discovered her interest in racing the age of 18. In a short span of three years, she has won the women’s category of the 2017 National Rally Championship. She also clinched three rally wins, bringing her total wins up to six national titles before her latest world title. However, the Bengaluru-based racer’s family did not agree to her career choice right away. “I come from a very conservative family where doing anything aside from a nine-to-five job is a taboo. When I wanted to take racing professionally, there were a lot of questions asked around like if this was normal? I believe that security is key in India and if you have that then you can do anything else as a passion. But when TVS racing came along and I took this up professionally and it started to pay me, my parents came around as well,” she remembers.
Motorsports are really celebrated among all genders outside of India. I remember when I won and I was up there on the stage, everyone out there including all the athletes were cheering for me.
Funding the sport
Apart from familial disagreements, there were other challenges as well that came along the way for Aishwarya. One of major difficulties was that of arranging finances for her gears, races, etc. Talking about it, she says, “I am a self-made person and when I say that I mean that not even a single penny of my parents has been put into my racing career. I have worked my way up and skills have got me where I am today. Motorsports is one of the most expensive sports in India and to be able to fund myself was one of the major challenges initially.”
Aishwarya recounts that it took her two years to start earning money out of racing and up until then, she was either working or borrowing. “If I didn’t invest in myself then I couldn’t expect anybody else to invest in me,” says she, adding that it has been five years now since she began racing and three years since she got her first paycheck.
Secondly, inhibitions and lack of faith from people around her also became roadblocks for her. “As a pioneer, you’ve got to deal with a lot of people saying you can’t do it and you can’t get there and that’s also been a big challenge for me to overcome but I did.”
There is no support from the government for our sport but recently Gaurav Gill has won the Arjuna Award and we believe that this achievement is going to help our sport to grow. The federation of Motorsports has been quite supportive by helping us educate people about the sport and also maintain the discipline and govern all the safety aspects of the sport in India and that’s about it.
Another aspect of racing is that one is susceptible to serious injuries, but breaking a few bones hasn’t deterred Aishwarya. Says she, “This is what I love and when I get to do what I love as a profession then there is nothing that I would trade it for. But in my career, I have had life-threatening injuries like I ruptured my pancreas last year and I have also broken my collar bone in 2017. This is a downside for an athlete. But it is important to surround yourself with the right people especially because it is an individual’s sport.”
On being asked about government’s support to motorsports in India and she says, “There is no support from the government for our sport but recently Gaurav Gill has won the Arjuna Award and we believe that after this feat it is going to help our sport to grow. The federation of Motorsports has been quite supportive by helping us educate people about the sport and also maintain the discipline and govern all the safety aspects of the sport in India and that’s about it.”
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Idols in the sport
“There is a woman named Laia Sanz from Spain who races in one of the most gruelling races called Dakar Rally which is my dream racing event. It happens for 14 days over 700 km per day which is one of the ultimate races every athlete in my sport wants to participate in. She is in the top 20 every year and a lot of guys cannot even finish it, so that’s who I want to be like. Then we have Indian heroes like, Aravind K P and C S Santhosh, who represent India at Dakar and these are the people who I look up to,” says Aishwarya while she herself aspires to participate in Dakar in 2020.
Image Credit: MyKhel.Com