The raging Kapila river in Karnataka’s Mysuru district could send shivers to anyone, but not Venkatesh Murthy, a sexagenarian priest.
As the floodgates of the Kabini reservoir was opened, water inundated the Nanjangud town, 169 km southwest of Bengaluru. Many people had to take shelter in the relief camps leaving their belongings behind.
While others were in tears, Murthy saw an opportunity to challenge the swollen Kapila. On Saturday morning, Murthy took a plunge into the furious river and remained missing for more than two days.
The video of Murthy’s daredevil act went viral on social media and many speculated that he was no more. News channels, too, counted him in the list of the flood victims. Murthy’s family searched for him, but to no avail.
But, defying all the reports about him, Murthy emerged on Monday, much to the amazement of people. “Yes, he is alive. He had come to the police station in the evening,” a Nanjangud rural police station officer told PTI.
This daredevilry and his safe return did not surprise his sister Manjula, who says this was not the first time that Murthy had jumped into the river. “He has been doing it for the past 25-30 years,” she told PTI.
Though Manjula was confident of Murthy’s return, his disappearance for two days left her worried.
“Never ever he took more than half-an-hour to return safe,” she said. “This time he was trapped at a pillar of Hejjige bridge and remained there for two days.”
People standing on the Hejjige bridge saw Murthy in the river on Saturday and tried to save him by throwing the rope. But on seeing him disappearing in the strong current of Kapila, they concluded he was no more.
“I usually swam from the middle of the pillars, but the current was so strong that I opted to hold the pillar. That was a mistake as I was trapped in the weeds stuck there,” Murthy told a news channel.
Somehow, he managed to climb on the chamber of the bridge and remained there for 60 hours and came out from there once the flood receded.
Defying his age, the temple priest had travelled across the country—from Kashmir to Kanyakumari—covering a distance of 10,000 km a few years ago on his battered bicycle.
The rains and flood have wreaked havoc in several districts of Karnataka, with the toll rising to 54 and nearly four lakh people lodged in relief camps. The situation improved on Tuesday with water receding in the affected areas.