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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII NO. 19, January 16-31, 2013
Desecrating a memorial to courage

The desecrated Schmidt memorial with the crack in the arch highlighted in the inset. Below, the old (left) and a newer plaque completely defaced.

K.R.A. Narasiah, who sent Madras Musings photographs, writes that they were taken, when a group of citizens led by social activists Kamakshi Subramaniam and a Dr. Babu took it upon themselves to remember the drowning on December 30th, 82 years ago, of Kaj Schmidt, a Danish sailor who lost his life trying to rescue a young woman from Britain who was holidaying in Madras. Then, as now, the waters off Marina Beach and Elliott's Beach were not the safest for swimming, particularly during the latter part of the year when, with the monsoons, the currents can become particularly treacherous. This young woman and a friend of hers, another young woman, found this out too late. Schmidt, who was also testing the waters, succeeded in rescuing them but the effort proved too much for him.

Legend has it that at the Governor's Ball that evening – or was it on New Year's Eve? – the young women arrived dressed in all their finery only to have Governor Sir George Stanley frostily tell them when they reached him in the receiving line that it was hardly the done thing to come to a Ball after a life had been lost on account of them. The two, it is said, fled in tears.

Be that story as it may, admirers in Madras of Kaj Schmidt's act raised money for a huge memorial that was raised on Elliott's Beach – which serves both as a remembrance for courage as well as a warning to swimmers here. It was here that the group of social activists lit candles in Schmidt's memory the other day and spoke of how badly we keep such markers of the city's heritage.

One of Narasiah' s pictures shows a seriously threatening crack in the arch.

Other pictures show the memorial scrawled all over with graffiti, while other plictures show the original plaque that the Corporation of Madras 'implanted' after carrying out some renovation work on the memorial badly defaced.

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In this Issue

More money for tourism
A tinder box waiting to explode
Senior citizens develop an arboretum
Discovering Trichy's Madras connections
Desecrating a memorial to courage
The man behind City's National Art Gallery
The tales of 3 newsmakers
An early scam in Madras

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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