This post is written for the theme “26 Places, 26 Memories” for the #AtoZChallenge.
G FOR GWALIOR:
The stately city of Gwalior is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. It’s best known for its beautiful palaces, temples and the magnificent Gwalior Fort, that offers a fantastic sound and light show.
I visited Gwalior in 2001 during autumn break from school. My parents had invited my cousins to join us on a family holiday, and we stayed at the Taj Usha Kiran Palace. A heritage property converted into a hotel, the place was slightly decrepit at the time, but had loads of character. I enjoyed the historical sightseeing the city offered, and loved spending time with my cousins, but one memory stands out the most.
GRAPPLING WITH MY GIRLHOOD IN GWALIOR:
At 14, I was just coming to terms with my adolescent body. I was overweight, acne’d, and rife with teenage insecurities. Most of you would be familiar with growing pains, both physical and emotional.
All four children, of whom I was the oldest, were at the activity centre of the hotel one evening. The man in-charge of the activity centre tried teaching each of us, in turn, the method to play pool correctly. He stood behind us, guiding the pool stick in our hands to show us the amount of force required to push the ball, as well as how to take aim correctly. When it was my turn, he stood extremely close and fondled me with every swing of the cue.
I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I was acutely aware of my own discomfort. After a few tries, I retreated into my shell, curling up with a book instead of playing pool with the others. Though the incident remained in my mind for a long time, I never told anyone about it. In hindsight, I should’ve confided to my parents on the spot, so other girls could be saved from this man’s prowling hands. Unfortunately, I was unable to express my feelings even to myself. As a teenager, I’d romanticised the idea of receiving attention from boys I liked, but I was completely unprepared for this unwanted attention showered on me.
The recent #MeToo movement has proved a blessing for shy teenagers and girls who lack the courage, or even the ability to understand when they’re being subjected to acts of sexual harassment. I wish I had the courage to voice my distress back then. This wasn’t the only time I’ve been groped, touched, leered at, followed, bothered etc., but this was the first in my memory and hence the most distressing. It led to a sudden, stark awareness of my own girlhood.
Come to think of it, when my friends played pool endlessly as a pastime in later years, this was probably why I never enjoyed the game 😉
Come back tomorrow for the letter H and another story!
Posing at the Gwalior Fort circa October 2001
Enjoying the cultural shows at the hotel
Book a stay at the Taj Usha Kiran Palace Hotel in Gwalior by clicking here.
*Unless specified, the copyright in all pictures belongs to nooranandchawla.
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