As the rains approach the Western coast, Goa's beaches see a beeline of senior citizens heading for their annual swim in the salty water of the Arabian sea, a ritual which they say keeps illness and vagaries at bay.
Some decades back, the month of May and the early few days of June, would witness a virtual migration of ageing men and women towards the coastline from across the length and breadth of the state.
Now, with easy access to medication and the busy demands of contemporary living, the sea-going hordes of senior citizens may have lessened, but there are many who follow the practice of the annual bath in the sea, very often a two- or three-day ritual.
"I have been going to the beach for my salt water bath for the past 20 years. Earlier, I used to accompany my mother-in-law because she required help due to the strong currents of the sea. Then, after she passed away, it became a compulsion for me too; I go the beach every year. They say it's good for the limbs, blood circulation, arthritis," says Patricia D'Souza, a resident of Nagoa in North Goa.
The swelling number of tourists on Goa's beaches -- more than six million last year -- she says, has dampened the enthusiasm of the locals vis-a-vis continuance of the ritual. But the benefits are too good to be missed out on, she claims.
"Only once (did I miss the ritual), because I was not in Goa that year during March-April; but then later, as the year passed by, I did have pain in my knees and I used to get blood clots on my body. Therefore, now I prefer to have salt water bath as it's a very good remedy for many ailments which many people of my age and older will always agree to," D'Souza says.
Livi D'Cunha,81, who resides in the popular beach village of Ashwem in North Goa, says that she has been visiting the beach annually in the months of May and June since she was a teenager.
"It has helped in keeping my blood circulation well, and I feel re-energised every year after bathing in the sea. I probably missed once or twice, but it has not had any massive impact in a negative way. I might have been low on my energy level that year, but otherwise it has not had any negative effects," she says, adding that the ritual started because she used to accompany her parents.
However, in recent times, pollution of the seas has taken a toll on her enthusiasm and that she often does have second thoughts about the ritualistic bath.
"Yes, the water is polluted, so I have second thoughts depending on which beach I should go to for bathing," she says.
Old timers in Goa claim that the increased salt content in the water in summers multiplies the health benefits of taking a sea water bath, especially if one takes regular dips for several hours at a stretch, before eventually bathing in regular soft water.
Groups of locals would head for the beach riding the back of a pick-up along with family, making the ritual an occasion for a family picnic, which sometimes would last for two or three days, where the family would camp at the beach, with their bed spreads, food and plenty of water.
"We would all carry our toys along with a cup, which every member of our family had to carry. Our granny used to tell us to fill the sea water in the cup and pour it on our backs; we would do it when she was watching us but when she wasn't, we would throw it on each other. She would then give us something to eat and take us home by five, with tanned, tired and happy faces," says Deonizia Da Cunha, 73, from Batim, a village in North Goa.
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