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Wednesday, Dec 25, 2002

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Tough life for a statue

D. Murali

TO be alive is normally a preferred state, if one had the option, rather than to be dead. And the dead, if they had the choice, would not insist on having statues installed in public places to perpetuate their memory, especially if they had seen, when alive, the state of other statues in the city.

Most of these monuments are carefully crafted, artistically visualised and put up with great pomp and expense. After the first flowers fade away, and sheen dims from the plaques, these statues in road junctions, sidewalks, traffic islands, bridge ends, building fronts, lawn middles and so on serve the grand purpose of acting as a perch for passing birds that use their resting time purposefully, leaving their distinct mark when they fly away.

Yesteryear leaders and kings, poets and freedom fighters are apparently honoured by having them stand silently, but are also perpetually insulted by every passing dog or crow, even if those animals and birds don't mean any offence. Statues serve as the ideal rendezvous for blind dates, dealmakers, and peanut sellers. And when at least once a year platforms get erected all round the statue and ministers or party workers line-up to shower flowers or throw garlands, you can be sure it must be the birthday of the statued man or woman.

Luckier ones get the special treatment twice, if the living deem it fit to remember the date of death also. Normal ones don't get any such attention. But it must be the plain unlucky ones who not only are not thought of on their birthdays and anniversaries, but serve the odd purpose of being reduced to a prop when it is the turn of a neighbouring statue to be honoured. The statue of King Edward VII belongs to the last category.

Apart from all the sins that he was despised for by his own mother Queen Victoria, when he was alive, the one posthumous problem Edward has is to have a politically influential neighbour, a statue that is revered by the Dravidian parties. It is a different matter altogether that the platforms that come up days in advance of the d-o-b and d-o-d around the privileged statue do create traffic hazards by narrowing down the usable carriageway and creating fresh blind spots. More unkindly, the festoons that the over-enthusiastic party workers tie up can reduce a king's head to a crutch, and treat him like a lamppost.

If only Edward had a choice, he would have taken the first fish cart to the nearest museum, where a Kannagi is already housed after getting hit mysteriously by a speeding truck. Pity, he doesn't have such a choice, unless one day a tanker crashes into his pedestal.

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