Morality goes grazing, burp! - Varsity forced to mutilate 'suggestive' grass mermaid

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  • Published 26.11.10
The mutilated grass mermaid

Nov. 25: Off with the “offensive parts”, they snarled and thus was mutilated the grass mermaid.

The grass mermaid at a Kerala university went under the scalpel yesterday because a section of the staff, most of them from a CPM-backed women’s association, felt its breasts were not in keeping with the ambience of a centre of learning.

The 18ft-long mermaid, a grass replica of the Yakshi, a rock sculpture of the mythical enchantress by Kanai Kunhiraman at Malampuzha gardens in Palakkad, has been a prominent feature of the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) for 18 years.

Yesterday, gardener Sajeevan, who has been tending the Matsya Kanyaka for the past two years, had no option but to apply the scissors to remove the “offensive parts”.

P.A. Varghese, who created the mermaid, was in tears as he looked at the mutilated figure. “I feel as if I’ve lost my child,” Varghese, who retired as gardener two years ago, said. “I worked for years to bring it to perfection and maintain its shape. The beauty of the work is gone. What lies bare is the perverse mindset of supposedly educated people.”

The registrar, Chandramohan, had tried to hide the so-called offending parts by planting palms around the mermaid, which lay on the meadow, head raised five-and-a-half feet.

But members of the pro-CPM Women’s Welfare Association were furious. Palms won’t do, they told the registrar, “sanitise” the mermaid. “The highly suggestive torso is not in keeping with the decorum of a centre of learning.”

Sections of other employees had met the registrar yesterday, requesting that the mermaid be spared the mutilation because it had lain there for 18 years without causing any harm.

But the registrar ordered the surgery.

Education minister and CPM leader M.A. Baby said he would order a probe.

Some university employees had once approached former VC K.G. Adiyodi, who told them to redo the sculpture without destroying its aesthetic appeal.

The employees let it remain, probably realising they couldn’t do much to improve it.

M.V. Devan, painter-sculptor and former chairman of the Kerala Lalit Kala Akademi, condemned the mutilation, saying it was “deplorable that it should have come from those who claim to be civilised and educated”.

Former VC K.S. Radhakrishnan said the mermaid was a fine piece of art. “It was delightful every morning to see the lady of the seas, bathed in dew and reclining on the grass bed.”