The Triumph of Labour Statue on the Marina means different things to different people. For the weary tourist it offers shade, for the little boy selling bubble blowers it is an ideal location to catch the eye of prospective buyers, and for the trade unionist it symbolises hard work.
The statue portraying four men trying to move an adamant boulder was sculpted by Debi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, the first Indian Principal of the Madras School of Arts and Crafts. Unveiled in the 1950s, it is reminiscent of a famous World Ward- II photograph showing American Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
A member of the Chennai Corporation Red Flag Union said that though for several visitors to the Marina the statue may signify different things, it symbolised the importance of hard work and persistence to workers like him.
“For them it could be just another statue. But for us, it is situated very close to the Triplicane Beach where a meeting to mark Labour Day was held in 1923. A manifesto pledging to create a political party to represent the rights of labourers was said to have been read there,” he explained.
Like other unions, the Red Flag too plans to take out a procession on May Day.
“The May Day Park at Chintadripet is more symbolic of the day. Our leaders would talk about the significance of May Day after the procession,” said another conservancy staff of the Chennai Corporation.
According to historian V. Sriram, the park was earlier called Napier Park after Baron Napier of Magdala, who was Governor of Madras Presidency. It was later re-christened by the Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on requests from Communist leaders. The monument has two gear wheels, a gun and the word May written in Tamil,” he explained. He said that in 1923 a similar meeting at the Triplicane Beach was held opposite the High Court.
“There have been instances of Singaravelar and Periyar holding meetings at Napier Park. An anti-Hindi agitation by students in the 1960s was flagged off from that park.”
However, for the common man, the day is a holiday. Arivoli, an autorickshaw driver, who works from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., plans to watch horror movies on DVD on May Day. “Many offices would be closed and I would not have many passengers,” he reasons out.