City Landmark – Lieutenant’s Bust, Atul Katarya Chowk, Gurgaon
A roundabout homage.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Yellow butterflies are dancing over the white and blue flowers. On this muggy afternoon, they are the only visitors of this memorial to a fallen soldier.
But others have come before and left behind souvenirs of their presence in the form of a beer bottle, a plastic plate, a beedi stub, a tetra pack of orange juice, and most bizarrely, some blue pants.
The Atul Katarya Chowk is a traffic roundabout in Gurgaon, commemorating an army officer of the same name. Lieutenant Katarya’s small marble bust stands at the top of a plinth in the center of the roundabout. A Mark Twain quote is inscribed directly below: “Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”
The landscaped garden has clearly gone astray. Unruly grass has spread like rashes on the skin. Some plants have died and turned brown, others are blooming wild as only plants can in the absence of gardeners. One of the four palm trees seem to be lifeless.
The cars are moving about the circle and turning to the lane of their choice with perfect indifference.
Lieutenant Katarya was from Gurugram. He was killed in Jammu & Kashmir in 1998. The memorial came up a year later. These days, when people of his hometown take his name, they are most probably thinking not of him but of the roundabout.
A brief biography on the memorial describes the lieutenant ‘s final moments in the following words.
“On October 14, 1998, on a mission in Sangarwani area of Pulwama district, Lt. Atul charged into a militant hideout with his gun blazing in full fury, when a hail of enemy bullets caught his side in the hour of his triumph. His patrol rushed to the scene only to find the Tiger of 13 Punjab (Jind), ‘Abdul’, the darling of the local Kashmiris, and a great son of India, lay martyred.”
If the lieutenant had lived, he would have been 42 today and on this very spot would be found a roundabout with a different name.