Of Bitter Gourd Chips and Memories

This morning, as I was buying vegetables from the vendor in my colony, a very unusual thing happened.  I glanced at a pile of fresh bitter gourd. Something stirred within me, and in a flash of a second, I was transported back 25 years. I have always disliked this vegetable and seldom buy it. Yet today, it was something else…

Way back in the eighties, when life was far simpler, my family lived in big independent bungalow. I have been fortunate to have grown up as part of this large joint family. The home had a lawn in front, a backyard that had a washing stone (I wonder if these washing stones exist anymore, with the advent of washing machines). Growing up was fun amidst grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins galore. We were a total of 16 members living under the same roof and sharing a common kitchen!! As the years passed by, the next gen sought better opportunities to move to different parts of the globe. My grand mom, the wise old owl of the family, passed away too.  It was like the roots of a majestic tree had all of a sudden been cut.  The other elders in the family moved on to live with their own children. My father though, continued living in the home till his death last year. He had only one wish, when he knew his cancer was terminal, to die in his home.

A mere house now, it still stands tall in Bangalore- vacant! I seldom think much about it. So caught up are we in our daily lives that often we fail to relax, breathe and give a thought to what was once ours.

Today, the pile of bitter gourd took me back there. I remembered the grand “shrardam” ceremonies my grand mom was so particular about. Shrardam is a Tamil name for the function that is done in memory of a departed loved one. It is an elaborate affair, with an array of dishes that is prepared and served on banana leaves, to Brahmins, and then to the rest of the family. It is believed that the departed soul visits the home on that day. One of the dishes my mom used to prepare on this day was fried bitter gourd.

My dislike for the vegetable dates back to these days, when I used to push those fried rings right under the banana leaf I ate on.


But my grand mom’s watchful eye would often foil my plan, and I would invariably end up gulping it down with a glass of water. I wondered- why would the departed soul want to eat bitter gourd? Wouldn’t he just stop coming back?

A Faint smile crossed my face as these visions crept in my mind today. I bent down and picked up a kilo of the tender bitter gourd.  How I wish I had someone to tell me to eat it today. I came back home and fried them in rings, just the way mom would make it. They still tasted bitter, but there was a magical sweetness to it to today!!!!

Strange how something I disliked could actually trigger a plethora of fond memories.

So have you had an instance where something you disliked brought about a surge of emotions that were pleasant? Would love to know about it.

Image for representation purpose only. Source: www.awesomecuisine.com

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  1. Many many things actually. We lived with our grandparents and my grand mom would pick out the weirdest things to cook up – of course there was bitter gourd but also drumstick flowers and bottle gourd (lauki) flowers dipped in some batter and fried – and chana daal with bottle gourd loaded with asafoetida. I hated it all but the strange thing is I grew to love most of it. Though I still draw the line at bitter gourd.

  2. Aah, I can very well relate to this incident, though it didn’t come from something I dislike, but instead something I loved a lot. In my case, it was a ‘maladoo’, something that tastes like milk powder, and trust me there is nothing else like it! In fact, I wrote something quite similar once…here’s the link-

    It’s funny how little things like these can bring in a surge of memories and emotions from the past.

  3. Mine isn’t food, but a song. I used to hate “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac, but I remember when I was younger all the good times listening to the album. I remember how much my dad loved the song and encouraged me to look at it differently. I listen to it now and recall both the hatred of the song and the love of the man who introduced it to me.

    Great story! I think it’s the first I’ve seen from you, so I’m looking forward to more! 🙂

  4. My mom also makes these friend bitter gourd rings, and I don’t like eating them at all!

    Sad songs bring back sad and nostalgic memories for me. At times, I also feel a rush of emotions when I visit a place that I used to visit with people who are no longer a part of my life anymore. Makes me sad for a while, but then I get back to normal after a few hours. Weird, isn’t it? 🙂

  5. Lovely read about memories with food. They can be such strong memories thanks to taste and smell.

    Eggplant and I used to have a bad relationship…I still remember funny memories though…like swapping it with friends at school or feeding it to stray dogs. I didn’t work up the courage to tell mum I disliked it until much, much later!

  6. I used to dislike mangoes as a kid! Can you believe that? It was probably because they were too messy to eat 🙂 But I have some great memories associated with mangoes. Memories of summer spent with all my cousins in our ancestral home near the Mysore Palace, memories of my grandfather bringing us mangoes on his way back from work. I could go on and on! This post is making me so nostalgic! Beautifully written 🙂

  7. I liked your image of yourself as a child pushing the disliked food under the banana leaf (and getting caught). I enjoyed reading about your memories, and I am now curious to taste bitter gourd.

  8. And going into those memories is always a bliss.. isn’t it? I like bitter gourd sometimes.. as in it is prepared by various methods, so a different recipe works for me 🙂


  9. All I can of right on is the movie Inside Out. How good things that deep seated in the memory surface up in case of a trigger. In your case the bitter gourd. What a heart warming post Ramya. Loved reading it!

  10. Wonderfully narrated.. Life is so ironical.. The stuffs that we ignored or hated once , soon become one in our favorite lists or atleast in okay lists. The description of the thought process after buying bitter gourds from vendor simply takes one to out of the world. Excellence in words..:) enjoyed reading it.:)

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