The widening crack in the Schmidt Memorial on Elliot’s Beach underlines a lack of will to protect it

Kaj Schmidt deserves better! The monument on Elliot’s Beach, purportedly glorifying this Danish sailor who lost his life while saving two drowning girls (some reports say just one)in 1930, does him, if anything, a great dishonour. Because, the will to protect it seems to be lacking. As if to underline this indifference towards Schmidt, the arch has developed a huge crack that goes right through, splitting the inscription bearing the sailor’s name on both the sides. The fissure that has been there for a long time has now widened to a point where concern that translates into action can be the only valid response.

The walls of a simple secondary structure that encompasses the edifice also display wide cracks. The sorry state of the memorial at once attracts attention. Recently, a tourist from Greece, Thanos Mousteris, could not help expressing his concern about it. Mystified, he asked, “Why does that arch have such a huge crack? Do earthquakes happen in this part of the world?” It was difficult to answer him. Thanos drew attention to The Acropolis in Athens. He explained that the structures there get affected by the passage of time, but the damage is promptly attended to. “The structures stand, because we take care of them,” he said.

Shouldn’t that jolt us out of our apathy? The Acropolis Restoration Project, started in 1975, is spurred by love for heritage and the willingness to preserve it at great cost. But undoing the effects of time and vandalism on Kaj Schmidt will consume very little time, effort and money. “Bringing in a corporate to restore and maintain the monument is a solution. If there is such a proposal, I am sure many hands will go up,” says V. Balakrishnan, executive committee member, Besant Nagar South Residents Association. “Let us bear in mind this is the only memorial on Besant Nagar beach. And it is a structure that has been designed intelligently: its brick-and-mortar trellis is aimed at preventing it from toppling over in the event of a cyclone.” What is heartening is Balakrishnan is not alone in his zeal to see the memorial’s beauty, strength and stability restored. There are a few others, including two social activists, “Kamakshi Subramaniam and a Dr. Babu”, as mentioned by historian S. Muthiah in a recent article, who have set the ball rolling towards this goal. On December 30, the day Schmidt lost his life, they celebrated his heroic act 82 years ago. It provided them with an occasion to talk about the memorial and what it urgently needs.

HISTORY

*Kaj Schmidt died in 1930 while saving two drowning girls

*A memorial stands in memory of this Danish sailor on Elliot’s Beach.

*The structure is intelligently designed: a built-in concrete trellis prevents it from toppling over in a cyclone.

ISSUE

*The monument bears the effects of vandalism: graffiti and garbage.

*Causing consternation is a crack in its arch that is getting wider.

POSITIVE SIGN

*A few social activists are trying to bring the issue to public notice.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION

*Restoration and maintenance work can be entrusted to a corporate.

***

For a video go to http://thne.ws/prince-schmidt

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