T. S. Atul Swaminathan
Tributes were paid to Kaj Schmidt, a Dutch sailor, on the occasion of his 82nd death anniversary at his memorial on Elliot’s Beach on December 30. The memorial bears a plaque dating back to December 30, 1930. Kaj lost his life when he tried to save a drowning swimmer, near the memorial. People who were gathered in large numbers paid tributes by offering prayers flowers and lighting candles.
One of the city’s landmarks built by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir George Frederick Stanley, the Governor of Madras, from 1929 to 1934, in memory of Schmidt, is now in ruins. After dusk, the memorial becomes a haven for anti-social elements.
Historian and writer K.R.A. Narasiah, said, “The memorial built to commemorate the gallantry of Schmidt, who lost his life while trying to save a girl from drowning in the sea, is in a bad shape. This is one of the city’s historical monuments and it has to be restored to its ancient glory.” Kamakshi Subramaniyan, a social activist, said “The monument which is in a derelict state has to be protected as it is of historical importance.. We have raised the issue with Chitlapakkam C. Rajendran, Member of Parliament, south Chennai, and M. K. Ashok, Member of Legislative Assembly, Velachery. They have promised to renovate the memorial.”
However, the memorial is shrinking in space, and getting dilapidated day by day. Names of people have been scribbled on the walls of the memorial. The area near the monument has become a dumping ground, with garbage strewn around and people use its walls for public convenience.
Earlier, five brave fishermen — Vadivel, Madan, Kalaimani, Udhaya Murthy, and Gopi of Urur Kuppam in Besant Nagar, who jumped in to the sea to save the sailors of MT Pratibha Cauvery, when it ran aground, placed a wreath at the entrance of the memorial, to drive home the point that drowning people pose a risk not only to themselves, but also to potential rescuers. They said steps must be taken to make the memorial into a tourism spot.