THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: “I feel really good for having motivated a few persons into the pool. Maybe, I am trying to be a role model for others of my age,” says Dr Sara Varghese, a 77-year-old who regularly goes to the swimming pool for her aqua workouts. This avid swimmer was a medical practitioner who retired as the Principal of Kottayam Medical College in 1989. Most of her cherished childhood memories are the times she had spent at Kottayam, a place with rivers in abundance.
As the water works swimming pool at Vellayambalam has been closed for construction for quite sometime, Sara found another place where she could continue her workouts.
Driving the car by herself from her house on Pothujanam Road at Kumarapuram, she goes to the Lakshmibai National College for Physical Education (LNCPE), Kariavattom, for a cold swim in the early mornings. She reaches the poolside by 6.30 am.
Putting on her swimsuit, Sara plunges into the slightly cold, chlorinated water. She begins with warm up strokes, which are followed by backstrokes, butterfly and dolphin strokes. While swimming, she meets her pool-mates, chats with them and helps out the newcomers with some swimming tips. After an hour of swimming, she drives back home.
For Sara, whose husband passed away two years back, swimming as an activity keeps her engaged physically and mentally. It has gifted her friendships which bloomed in the waters. She also used to coax her friends to join her for swimming by convincing them of the benefits of the activity. And one such friend was Dr Chandrika Neelakandan, a paediatrician who passed away a few years back.
“At the pool I have met youngsters who have asked me the secret of visiting the pool at this age without any inhibition,” says Sara. She has always replied that it was her need to keep the hobby alive.
An arthritis patient, Sara had suffered a fall few years back, resulting in fractures and injury to her shoulder. That was when she got to know that swimming, her old hobby, also had the goodness of healing aches and pains.
“Physiotherapy is good for such physical ailments, but water exercises work much better. The gentle underwater movements reduce pain without causing injuries. It is the best non-invasive treatment for joint pains and arthritis,” says Sara, who worked as a pathologist at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College and later at CMC, Vellore.
The workout has also brought her laurels. She had won a medal at the 3rd National Masters Aquatic Championship for senior citizens organised by the Swimming Federation of India in 2006.