THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Andriya Nayak had twice defied death in his native Kandhamal district in Odisha, but he did not expect to be fearing for his life yet again, while in Kerala. With the waters rising around Father’s House, a Pentecostal denomination theological seminary at Thottamon near Ranni, Nayak and 19 others feared the worst. With no rescue teams in the vicinity and a thick blanket of darkness shrouding them, the only thing that Nayak could do was close his eyes and wait for the inevitable, all the while chanting verses from the Bible.
“We could hear the roaring sound of the water below. All our mobile phones were dead. We were weeping and praying,” he said, recounting how they retreated to the first floor of the seminary.
Nayak remembered awaiting death, first in his village Ramagiri in and then in Lankagada, both in Kandhamal district a decade back. Nayak and his family had a narrow escape when Hindu Right wingers doused their house in Ramagiri in 2000. They then relocated to Lankagada.
Eight years later, during the deadly Kandhamal riots, Nayak, who was working as a warden in a hostel, had to flee to the forest with one of the inmates after the hostel came under attack from the Hindutva brigade.
“I could see the church and hostel go up in flames. We ran into the forest. My parents ran to another side of the forest. We came back only to see the vigilantes roaming the area, waiting to pounce on those who returned. Again, we went into the forest,” Nayak said.
Nayak is now pursuing a Masters in Theology from Father’s House. The institution houses 24 students, of whom four were yet to be rescued. Nayak said the water began rising by evening and as night set in, there was a sense of panic. It was the resourcefulness of Princemon, a staff, that helped them get in touch with rescue officials.