Who painted the Schmidt Memorial?

It felt good to get up early after such a long time. Reminded me of my days last year when i used to go to the marina at dawn to play ultimate. I was at the Chola Sheraton bus stop at 0530 not sure weather buses operate this early on a Sunday. The MTC didnt disappoint, and i was at Elliots beach in 20 minutes, just in time for the sunrise.

I went straight to the memorial hoping to find some ultra enthu people with paint all over their clothes, but the only human was sprawled on the broken steps of the memorial, wearing a green lungi that revealed much more than his hairy legs. As i went round to the side facing the sea, i could clearly make out the partial paint job that had been done the week before.

With no sign of the painters, i decided to catch up with the CUF guys and was discussing the upcoming international level frisbee tournament that the CUF kingpin Manu planned to have in Chennai. Also got a chance to bump into Vatsan, fellow Madras enthusiast and local rowdy. The match was a good pass time while i waited for someone to show up at the memorial. It was 7 30 and just when i started having my doubts about the whole painting thing, i notice a couple of guys making their way across the sand carrying buckets and a ladder. I catch up with them and meet Siddarth and Vijayan, Siddarth being the guy behind the whole idea.

Vijayan and Siddarth

Not wanting to waste any time, all three of us immediately get to work with the paint. We brush off and wash the existing graffiti with water before painting over them. All this while me and sid talk about the problems facing the monument and solutions for fixing it.

Thats me, painting the base

The memorial has been vandalised almost entirely by “x loves y” messages and etchings, badly damaging the monument. Sustained peeing on the foundation has also made the sand highly enriched in minerals as well as noxious odours and the base has cracked at several locations. And the silica in the sand here is broken bits of alcohol bottles making it as dangerous as a minefield. But nothing was enough to stop three people determined to make a little change in the city’s appearance.

The new paint job had got the local ecosystem excited

The new paint job had the local ecosystem all excited

Vandalism courtesy K.B.Siva

Vandalism courtesy K.B.Siva

We used some white paint to highlight the writings as a temporary measure to attract public interest

We used some white paint to highlight the writings as a temporary measure to attract public interest

Getting help from members of the local cricket team

Getting help from members of the local cricket team

The side facing the sea. This is when we ran out of paint

The side facing the sea. This is when we ran out of paint

How it looked when we were done for the day

How it looked when we were done for the day

We finally ran out of paint.

Siddarth admits to having having his first bottle of beer over here. I remember peeing on this very same structure two years ago. We had redeemed our guilt, its was time we became part of the solution than the problem, and make sure that others dont commit the same mistake. Can ordinary citizens really make a difference? We are going there again next week to show that we can if we really want to.

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23 responses to “Who painted the Schmidt Memorial?”

  1. Navaneethan Santhanam says :

    If there is an example that citizens can make a difference, this is it. Fantastic work, I hope you receive recognition from beach-goers!

  2. lemon says :

    im super proud of u guys!

    show us ur face!

  3. Dynesh says :

    Nice work! I grew up in Besant Nagar and hence can remember seeing the monument degrade over time. So i’m as guilty as anyone else of not doing anything about it. Did you get any press coverage? Atleast let the Adayar Times know. I wonder if the best way to prevent people using it as a toilet is to fence it off. Defeats the purpose of the thing frankly, but then atleast it might stay clean.

    And planemad, surely there’s a grammatical error in this post?

  4. Navneeth says :

    I’m surprised that Policemen didn’t show up and shoo you away. Congrats! 🙂

  5. InWantOfBeingMe says :

    Great work guys ! Really proud of you boys ! I am only reminded of Archies comics, which had inspired me a lot about taking care of our neighbourhood.

    I tried lighting the spark with friends, and got laughed at, and stopped right there. Didn’t go further to do anything about it. !

    Fantastic work your guys ! I suppose, this is being the change, you wish to see 🙂

  6. planemad says :

    thanks. the sole objective was for the memorial to get attention, not us. hopefully they will realise that the beach is one of the city’s biggest asset and would stop destroying it

    thanks. maybe you’ve already seen me 😉

    Nah, sometimes too much publicity just ruins things. No, the best way to prevent using it as a toilet is to build one on the beach.
    Grammatical error? maybe, i always scored poorly in languages 😛

    It was Sunday morning and the sun was the heat was on. If indeed there was a cop in the booth, i bet he would have been sleeping.

  7. planemad says :

    Talking fancy never did work. Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty and show others

  8. Dynesh says :

    Hmm, are there no toilets on the beach at all? Even then, it wouldn’t necessarily change people’s attitudes. But still, atleast you made a difference by what you did. Sometimes I just think there’s this huge wall of cynicism about things like this, so it’s very heartening to see someone climb over it.

    MTC has all-weather buses? 🙂

  9. lemon says :

    Maybe i have 🙂

  10. Salil says :

    That is a superlative effort. Kudos to you guys.

  11. R.Shantaram says :

    Wonderful! Wish I had known about this, would have loved to do a bit of Tom Sawyer-ish stuff!

    Way to go, guys!!

  12. sandsrandomramblings says :

    Just seeing the pictures brought back wonderful memories and made me want to join you guys in painting this monument. Born & raised in Besant Nagar, this one is special to me. Kudos to you all. Now when I visit in Dec, I can see a painted monument, thanks to you folks:)

  13. Sidarth says :

    I request you all to wake up a little early, lets say at 6am the coming sunday.
    Help us clean our beach…. U would love to to the beach agin and again…


  14. Deepak says :

    Next time U go out fr something like this let me know…i’ll try to join U folks… for ur present efforts…proud of U guys.

  15. planemad says :

    from my enquires the closest wc was near the velankanni church. too long a walk for a piss. yep the mtc does run all night services



    dont wait for others. if you think you can do something, do it

  16. planemad says :

    thanks, but the job isnt done. yet.

    i cant thank you enough for taking the first step. theres no fire without a spark 🙂

    Please do. Thanks 🙂

  17. Capt Suresh Sharma says :

    Wonderful, good job done. I am sure you and your work will inspire the younger lot. All the best.

  18. Vincent D Souza says :

    This is THE ACT.
    Addressing a local, public issue without waiting for officials, media hounds and community groups.
    Congrats folks. . .

    We at Adyar Times ( adyartimes@gmail.com – 24913602) didn’t get the buzz but now that you have alerted us, we will post it in this Sunday’s issue.

    AT has been focussing on Bessie for many years now. Small groups have attempted to work but lost steam in petty divides, ego scrapes and mixed focus.

    At least, one group managed to get the Chennai Corporation to drop its grand plan to spend lakhs to build fancy pathways, gondolas and lawns in the sands and are wasting lakhs on a granite sidewalk that could trip the oldies!

    Anyway, the revised plans are fancy – 2 sitting galleries off the sidewalks, lawns, PCs, skating rink, kids play area. . .

    The city body pours money into huge, new plans but doesnt have a pie for upkeep. . .to it the Schidmt Memorial is a ‘waste’. Suggest a grand tower and it will lap it up and spend 5 lakhs on it!

    The Schidmt initiative can and should set off more – an informal group that interacts with hawkers and discourages plastic and waste dumping, regulates hawkers ( Corporation is to have an informal regn of the beach hawkers so the tribe doesn’t explode with outsiders and goons), hosts informal events that links the young community of Bessie, improves the seafront that throws up waste and perhaps works for a ban on bikes and cars on the beach road – the way Pondy follows on hols and weekends . .

    The Schmidt Memorial needs more attention – a professional engineer needs to assess it and suggest repairs. . Can we seek out a great young civicl engineer to do this NOW?
    Then, raise the monies and repair it. . . get the area landscaped and fit a few light beams on it. . .

    If 4 young men can walk up to it one Sunday and care for it, I am sure the four and four fours can get the 400 whose life is Bessie Beach to get involved. . .

    May this initiative trigger greater things pleaseeeee. . count on us!

    vincentsjottings@gmail.com / 98410 49155

  19. planemad says :

    Thanks Vincent, its great to have you behind us

  20. planemad says :

    @capt suresh
    thanks 🙂

  21. Saad Akhtar says :

    A wonderful act. I’ve been guilty of whining about sad state of some Delhi monuments and blaming ASI for a shitty pink-paint-job. You guys did something about it.

    Maybe ASI should start organizing workshops and doing such things with volunteers. Or maybe some group can start something after taking ASI’s permission.

  22. rame409 says :

    k now that ive finally seen and read the entire story ,,,im mighty proud…gr8888 work…what you provide is the inspiration for everyone to pitch in and do stuff like this..basically prove to people that its not impossible..and that its no use cribbing about something when you can go out there and fix it yourself…keep it up!!

  23. planemad says :

    @Saad Akhtar
    Thanks 🙂 you dont need to paint a monument to improve the city, you can start right outside your own home. Its the people of India needs fixing first, once we all have some basic civic sense, the country will transform overnight.

    Thanks. But unless someone else picks up where we left off, all our efforts will be for nothing. Sadly, i dont see anyone 😦

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