SHILLONG, Jan 1 � At the stroke of midnight, when fire-crackers and bellows greeted the New Year in this chilling hill city, a group of 23 youths, including two women, jumped into ice-filled waters of a pool here.
To make things even chiller, 50 ice-blocks weighing 50 kgs each were thrown into the pool.
For 16 years, members of the Forever Young Club, led by 55-year-old Michael Syiem, have been performing this act.
�This is to welcome the New Year from the very first second with a prayer to God for strength and wisdom to face the challenges of life,� Syiem told PTI, quivering after coming out of waters after a five-minute swim.
�Nowadays celebrations mean drinking and frolicking. But this is a different and sober kind of celebrations, which has more to do with determination and strengthening of the inner self to face the challenges of life,� said Syiem, a former student leader turned RTI activist.
No intoxicants were allowed to the participants before the event, as the organisers felt drinking would negate the objective of the event.
�May be this is the reason why I haven�t had to check my blood pressure and sugar till date,� said another participant who is in his late forties.
The two women who did the midnight swimming for the first time said it was delightful to come out of the cold waters in the first minute of the year.
A similar custom of midnight swim to welcome the New Year is also prevalent in Argentina and some parts of Russia. � PTI