Crumbling Glory


Schmidt Memorial
Courtesy: Wikipedia

Isn’t this that crumbling structure people spit on? This shady structure in Elliot’s beach, Chennai was built for a worthy cause as opposed to the drinking, making out, weed smoking spittoon that it has become today.

The culvert that can hardly be read ( if you can make it past the stench and dare to intervene in the not so polite activities that go on there) reads




DEC. 30-1930




Courtesy: Wikipedia

Karl Schmidt was drowned while trying to save the life of a young English girl. Lieutenant-Colonel Sir George Frederick Stanley, the Governor of Madras commissioned this memorial allegedly outraged by the apparent apathy of the victim who was saved and to honour the selfless service of Schmidt. P. Munuswamy Naidu, CM of the Independent Movement’s Justice Party (remember the Madras Presidency was under Dyarchy for some time) also welcomed this commission.

So what happened after that? Well, we got independence and budding artists couldn’t just leave a white canvas blank. They had to create modern art but spitting beetle juice, drawing with charcoal, stubbing out cigarettes, discarding used condoms, old underwear, rubber flip flops, glass shards from beer bottles… That should add a bit of colour and character to a plain white structure eh? They composed haikus, graffiti and left them etched on the small patches that had escaped. Less artistic folk simply resorted to carving their names in. Lack of lighting contributed to the place turning into a charitable abode for the world’s oldest profession. Hint of Ganja smoke, jasmine and urine in the air, the hot and heavy adventures rendered the place completely inaccessible for the public. From a monument to a monumental symbol of all that is wrong with our city, the Schmidt Memorial has certainly had a dramatic fall from glory.

The Chennai Corporation is now attempting to restore the structure. But just patching up the cracks will not be enough. The foundation has to be strengthened and even the culvert needs help. The tenders have been floated and petitions given. It is a good initiative, but needs public support.

We Chennaiites are known for taking pride in our city. The influx of people from all over has not fazed our loyalty. We ought not to loose the spirit of Chennai in our mad rush to be the perfect hosts. We are hospitable, helpful; we hold dear all our cultures and invite yours too; we strive to help the less fortunate; we are marching ahead but would not like to leave you behind… Such is Chennai, please help keep our city beautiful. 


  1. Dear Archie,
    Its just not the fate of a single monument’s the fate of thousands of historically important places in India. For that, we can blame out own mindset and culture only.
    Last year, I had a chance to work in Tehran, capital of Iran. During the tenure, I visited many parts of Iran and I was amazed how people respect and preserve the remains of their past. Even market places, which are 800 years old,are preserved and is in use by constant renovation. I have seen buildings reinforced for current use, without losing its historical value. These are attempts from people with a long history and civilization as ours. Only difference is we lost that charm some where in the run to achieve modernity.

    To add, Tehran is one of the most modern city with ultimate basic and luxurious amenities, I have ever seen. Just mentioned to clear the fact that loving the past, never stopped them to be modern.

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