UP style karela: Of burpers, belchers and burbulences!


“BaaaaWWWWW... ” goes the almost-asleep baby loudly and looks up, head shaking in wonderment (also because she is only two months old and the neck is still not strong enough to hold her head up) with a surprised expression as if to say, “Now who did that? Who woke me up???!” before shaking herself and nodding off again.

The loud burps were always surprising coming from such a tiny creature but also a source of joy for the tired parents – her dad and me. Now that the baby had burped after her night feed, we could finally go to sleep peacefully without having nightmares that she was going to choke in her sleep! I swear to god, I have had nightmares about this – as I am sure every parent of an infant has!

Kanch, my younger one, was the burper – the one who was born inheriting the genes of every Indian who had ever been taught that the proper way to indicate approval and satiety after a meal, very flattering to mine hosts was to burp, nay belch loudly, a belch which started somewhere inside the belly button and rumbled it’s way out of of the oesophagus, gathering steam along the way! A very proper Asian belch!

By the same token, Arch, my older one, was a very polite ‘burper’, a burp that was just a ‘blip’ on the radar, over almost before it registered! With the result that we did miss it – many times and then spent hours doing the pendulum thing (with the baby’s torso being moved up and down, her sleepy eyes opening surprisedly every time she was upright and shutting as she was moved backward – rather like the walkie-talkie dolls of our childhood. These, by the way, were the envy of every little girl who did not possess one (read 99 out of one hundred little girls!) and the prized possession of those who did, being carefully locked away in a showcase and taken out gingerly by the mom for a very special occasion!), or walking around with her on our shoulder, hoping, even, praying – for a burp – the teeniest one! Whether you had a good night and managed to get to work without looking as though someone had smeared mascara all around your eyes, making you look like a racoon – all hinged on one tiny creature’s burping or not!

Babies are probably the most potent weapons on earth – negligible in size and with the power of several atomic bombs in their potential to disrupt or make an entire extended family dance to their every fancy – people are shushed while whole roomfuls of people wait with bated breath – “Has the baby burped? Oh, has the baby burped?” (sounds like a music hall  song, right??!) and then when the baby finally does, there is much rejoicing in heaven! And if, god forbid, someone has to leave for a life-threatening appointment, there are calls or texts, “Has the baby burped?!!”

So, when I recently heard my daughter (the big belcher and also a fitness intructor), talking to someone over the telephone about doing so many “burpees” during their workout, I chuckled to myself over a mental picture of several people trying to lose weight, agonizedly doing a duck walk across the gym floor, burping alway loudly with each step! Apparently this is not what it is but I like my burpees better than hers!

Same like I like my way of making karelas (based on a recipe of my sister-in-law’s – thanks, Shipra)… thusly…


  • Karelas/bitter gourd/bitter melon/kaakarakayi/paavakai – 300 gm – cut into squares of about haf an inch
  • Thinly sliced onions – 1 cup
  • Saunf/fennel seeds – 1 tsp
  • Red chilies – 4
  • Jeera/cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Dhania/corainder seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Asafoetida – 1 large pinch aside.
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  • Amchoor (dried mango powder) – 1 tsp
  • Grated jaggery – 2-3 tbsp
  • Salt
  • Oil – 2 tbsp

Powder the saunf, jeera, red chilies and dhania into a fine powder and set aside.

Heat the oil and add asafoetida. Immediately add onions and fry till pink.

Add the karela pieces, mix, sprinkle a little water, cover and cook for 5-6 minutes.

Add powdered masala, salt, jaggery and amchoor and mix well. Sprinkle a little more water and cover and cook for 5-6 minutes more till tender. Cook uncovered for a few minutes more till medium dry.

Serve with rotis or rice and watch the burps roll in, not Ogden Nash’s “burbulence” burps but rather deeply satisfied, all-Asian burps! And to save you the trouble of looking up the burbulence poem, here it is:

How do I feel today? 

As unfit as an unfiddle.

I’ve a turbulence in my mind

And a burbulence in my middle.