Bura Na Mano Holi Hai! What Does This Phrase Really Mean To You?

Posted: March 21, 2019

It is the time to celebrate Holi, one of the most wonderful, colourful festivals of India! But what does this phrase, “Bura na mano, holi hai” really mean?

Since childhood, we have been listening to this phrase “Bura na mano, holi hai” (Don’t feel offended, it’s holi). I felt that it meant that it’s ok to play with colours as long as you want to, and that a person must not feel offended if he/she is drenched again in colours after already cleaning up once.

However, as I grew up, and observed my surroundings, I felt that this phrase must have been carefully coined by men to allow themselves the freedom to to molest just about anybody…cousins, neighbourhood girls, aunties etc. Because even today women are warned away from going outside during this festival. Why? Since the men are on the loose today and there’s a lot of Holi hungama going on. There could be drunk men around and they have the liberty to do anything on the streets to anybody. Plus, it’s holi and if you are molested, you need to tell yourself, “Bura na mano, holi hai!”

I realised how Indian men are misusing this “Bura na mano, Holi hai” thing after I faced myself the discomfort and fear when a few men in my office approached me to apply colour on my face. I resisted hard with one of them, pushed his arms back and had a small tiff with him over his insistence upon applying Holi colours. I was a little scared when I could hear him murmuring, “Bura na mano…”

I was newly married and it was my first holi at my in-laws’ house. A boy with whom my in-laws are acquainted came up to me to play holi.  And in the name of playing holi, he was actually pressing and rubbing my neck and face and was standing too close to me.  I hesitated and ran to my room. I was actually being molested by a stranger in name of Holi! Well, I am a 30 year old woman and it took me a while to realise that this was molestation! Young girls and teenagers may not even recognise that they have been molested in one way or other, given how normalised such behaviour is and the pressure to not take offence.

Many women would have experienced the forced rubbing of colours on their faces and other body parts, and those absurd gazes at their bodies when wet. This is real and this exists in all parts of India where holi is played. Men are free of molestation charges this day! We have been made to listen to “Bura na mano, holi hai” and abide by the very notion of it.

Now, when I know how this day can be a very traumatic experience for any woman, I urge all women readers to beware of such inappropriate actions or behaviour of men especially during holi and always be ready to fight and hit his balls if you feel offended (“Bura laga to”). Declare openly what you feel, immediately, in front of the misbehaving person. Stand up for yourself before it is too late. Speak up – don’t pass on this phrase “Bura na mano, holi hai” to future generations because of its highly misleading nature in Indian society.  It creates a sense of men’s physical supremacy over women.

I also urge all male readers to behave themselves and be gentle when you are playing Holi with any girl or woman. Otherwise, you may be hit in the balls by a woman during Holi. And the woman will say, “Bura na mano, holi hai!”

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