Aishwarya Pissay: 'Didn’t know I was capable of what I am doing'

Aishwarya had to overcome three crashes and battle ‘altitude sickness.’ On top of everything there was always the social stigma associated with a female trying to make it big in a male-dominated sport.

Aishwarya had participated in the RdH last year too but as a privateer and couldn’t last more than a day. The backing by TVS also allows Aishwarya to dream bigger.   -  M. Periasamy

When Aishwarya Pissay started her tryst with bikes three years back, little did she know that she would come this far in such a short time.

“It started with weekend trips with my friends on a bike,” she recollects. “I then did a TV show wherein I had to travel more than 8000km over 24 days; from Rann of Kutch to Cherrapunji. That's how I got interested. But I didn’t know that I was capable of what I am doing right now.”

The 21-year-old is the reigning National two-wheeler champion in the girls category – in fact the first-ever winner – and earlier this year won the Indian Rally championship for girls. But her most recent success is arguably her biggest till date – at the Raid de Himalaya (RdH), riding an Apache RTR 200, she came fourth in the Moto Xtreme category (Group 'B' modified class) and was the only female to finish the race.

“It was possible to come third. Because of some unexpected circumstances I couldn't do it. But it feels nice to complete it and be placed fourth.”

However, it’s easier said than done. The nearly 2000-kilometre six-day long RdH is a gruelling event. Altitudes range upwards of 2000m and go up to 5500m and temperatures are often near zero; so much so that only 15 of 52 bikes which participated this year finished the rally.

Aishwarya herself had to overcome three crashes and battle ‘altitude sickness.’ On top of everything there was always the social stigma associated with a female trying to make it big in a male-dominated sport.

“A lot of people said, ‘this is not a girl's thing, why are you here? Just finish the race and don't aim at anything higher.’ I didn’t react and slowly my performance started speaking. I am really thankful to TVS for all the support. There was no difference in the way they managed my bike. We were all treated on par.”

This support in a capital-intensive sport is vital. Aishwarya had participated in the RdH last year too but as a privateer and couldn’t last more than a day. The backing also allows Aishwarya to dream bigger.

“One of the lady riders I look up to at the Dakar Rally is Laia Sanz (a thirteen-time women's Trial World Champion). They motivate me to push myself further. Next year, if possible I’ll try and do some events outside India.”

“But I am definitely happy with my progress. May be I could have started a bit earlier. But considering that I am in India and with all the things I am doing now, I feel happy and blessed.”