India – History and Society – for those who wish to think and learn for themselves
The Schmidt Memorial is located on the Elliots Beach in Besant Nagar, a part of South Madras (Chennai). Elliots Beach is named after Edward Elliot, a former governor of Madras and Besant Nagar is named after the philosopher Annie Besant, who moved from Britain and became an active member of the Indian freedom movement.
The memorial commemorates the sacrifice of KAJ Schmidt, a young Dutch sailor. On the 30th of December, 1930, a group of young British swimmers got into trouble in the currents off the coast of Elliots Beach. Schmidt helped save the life of the swimmers in particular that of a young British lady. In saving their lives however, he sacrificed his own. Story has it that the next day, the young lady who had been rescued attended a ball. The governor of Madras was touched by the sacrifice and instructed the construction of the memorial.
Over the years, the Schmidt Memorial has been a place where youngsters hang out and chat, and also often the locale for several films of the local Tamil film industry of Kodambakkam (known nationally as Kollywood).
The Schmidt Memorial has stood for over 80 years now braving the elements and the Christmas Tsunami. In the last few decades, it has started crumbling gradually and is need of repair. More recently, it has served as a drinking venue, or a shelter for the homeless. The nearby Governor’s Bungalow, the weekend retreat for the governor was renovated recently at a cost of several lakhs of rupees (perhaps not in cognizance of the Coastal Building Norms of India). However, not much thought was given to the Schmidt Memorial. It is ironic that swimmers continue to drown off the beach, near the very spot that KAJ Schmidt made his sacrifice. Over 60 individuals have lost their lives off the Marina and Elliot beaches in Madras in the last couple of years.
The photo was sourced from Wikipedia – taken by Pratap Venkatesan on 21st July 2012.