Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Requiem for a memorial?

Though not very inspiring architechturally, this structure with the words 'KAJ SCHMIDT' on its leeward side is always eye-catching simply beacuse it is the only brick-and-mortar construction on the sands of the Elliots Beach. Though not as instantly recognizable as Chennai Central for 'hero arrives in Madras' shots, it has played that role in a Malayalam movie (Naadodikattu), apart from minor and major roles in hundreds of other films.

But for all that, the structure is a landmark, a 78-year old one. It is now showing the signs of its age and the complete neglect that has befallen it. Very few people know that it is an expression of gratitude, constructed by the families of two school boys of Madras who were rescued from drowning in the sea close to that spot. Their rescuer, a Danish sailor named Karl Schmidt unfortunately paid for his gallantry with his life.

And we are about to forget that great deed: "...round the decay / Of that (colossal) wreck, boundless and bare, / the lone and level sands stretch far away"^ - words that came to mind when I went to look at this memorial after about 6 years. Is that where the memory of Hr Schmidt is headed? I do hope we can do something about getting this memorial refurbished. Any ideas?

^ from "Ozymandias", by Percy Bysshe Shelly, circa 1815

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