What Really Matters

by Ronita Chattopadhyay

Lohri was one of those unblemished joys
of my childhood.
There were two Punjabi families
where we lived.
One had a big house and a garden
and the other a small flat with a smaller balcony.
We were somewhere in the middle
(in terms of the space we occupied in square feet
and we were also Bengalis
from a different part of the country).
Anyways, every January,
we would be invited by both.

My memories of that time
are a mosaic of
comforting contrasts –
of blazing bonfires
as dusk faded into night
and the sweet and savoury tastes
of chikkis and rewris
and popcorn
that we were also encouraged
to throw into the fire
(we definitely need more fun traditions like that)
and dancing and resting and dancing again
as I moved between the two homes
with this sense of joy in my heart
that was sharper than the biting, winter cold.

I learnt something important then.
Always think of fire safety. Yes.
But what really matters
is who you make space for in your heart
and how.

Lohri is a festival celebrated on January 13 by Punjabis in north India, Pakistan and elsewhere. It marks the passing of the winter solstice and the beginning of the harvest season.

Both chikki and rewri/revdi are traditional sweets made with gur (jaggery). The other key ingredient is peanuts in chikki and sesame seeds in rewri.

©Ronita Chattopadhyay, 2023

This poem was longlisted as part of the Kinship: Poems Exploring Belonging project. Click here to find out more about the project, and other poems on the longlist here.


Concepts of belonging and community have constantly evolving definitions, and have been at the centre of fierce debate in recent years. The first twenty-three years of the new millennium have seen a rise in rhetoric aimed at those without the voice to argue back, and waves of toxic abuse have proliferated – and genocide. How relevant, then, to unite and raise our voices, to celebrate the rich tapestry of humanity, and to explore the labels we use to identify and express ourselves.

Kinship is a poetry anthology that seeks to provide a platform for marginalised voices, and to celebrate the great diversity and rich variation in the identities of people from around the world and from a huge cross-section of walks of life.

Click here for the anthology of shortlisted poems.