The lawyer writes a folklore collection: Tabanca and other stories
Since 2017, lawyer Tricia Chin wears a chain with a gold pendant in the shape of a coin. When she bought it that year, she did it because of its beauty and was not aware of what it symbolized.
But that changed in June 2020, when she spoke to an elderly Indian at a restaurant in Port of Spain.
Chin told Newsday that the pendant is “not really a coin, it’s just shaped like a coin.
â€œOne day in 2020, I was walking around Port of Spain and I went to lunch. The owner of the restaurant was an old East Indian man who observed me and asked if it was a
mohar I was carrying.”
Not knowing what a mohar was, Chin was confused.
“I asked him what mohar meant and he explained that it was something that the Indians kept and brought with them from India.
“When I returned to my office I would have Googled
mohar. I took pictures of it and saw that it was the currency of India a long time ago.
A mohar was a gold or silver coin once used in Nepal.
For Chin, the conversation was revealing. Being of Asian Indian origin herself, she was not very proud of not knowing what a
It also made her wonder what other aspects of her heritage she was unfamiliar with and how many people were in the same situation.
At the time, Chin was working on a collection of folk stories called Tabanca and Other Stories.
The incident not only inspired a new story in the book, but also confirmed why writing it was important.
Chin has always loved law, which has guided her career as a lawyer. She received her Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from UWI Cave Hill Campus, followed by Hugh Wooding Law School and was admitted to the Bar of Trinidad and Tobago in 2005.
For his postgraduate studies in transnational trade law and finance, Chin followed a program in Europe from 2008 to 2010, divided between three universities, including the University of Deusto in Spain.
But her travels and conversations like the one she’s had with the restaurant owner have opened her eyes to what she sees as a lack of understanding and appreciation for local culture.
So, while completing his postgraduate studies, Chin made the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage through northern Spain to visit the burial place of Saint James the Apostle.
She explained: â€œIt is a pilgrimage that has existed for at least 1,000 years and people are doing it from all over Europe.
â€œSo I started at the traditional place. which is the border between France and Spain and I have walked it.
During covid19’s initial lockdown in 2020, Chin developed a â€œtabancaâ€ for travel.
Her brother suggested that she write about her pilgrimage to Spain to relive the experience.
â€œI was like ‘Let me try to write about this (the pilgrimage)’ and I ended up with my first story, which is’ Tabanca – which had nothing to do with Spain.
â€œI would have grown up hearing stories about folklore. I grew up in Brasso – which is Brasso in Central, closer to Tabaquite, not Brasso Seco.
“My grandma would have all these fussies, like someone wakes up early to cook and hears a voice calling whose name is outside, and stuff like that.”
As Chin continued to write, the idea for Tabanca and other stories took shape. She started in June 2020 and by June 2021 she felt she had enough content to write a book, now self-published.
While Chin wrote about traditional folk characters like the worrier and the douen, she also took creative risks like turning popular patois words into characters.
She also put special emphasis on the frame of the book.
â€œI put it in the 1800s, because folklore is better placed in the past, it feels to me like it’s in the past.
â€œThe stories don’t sound like what you would expect from folk stories. So it’s not like I went down the road, followed a deer in the forest, the deer turned into Papa Bois and he told me that I should stop hunting manicou … Tabanca is a character, bacchanal and like are charactersâ€¦ they are not characters in the truest sense of the word.
Other patois words like cote-ci cote-la, vie-ki-vie obeah, laskaray and dingolay have been transformed into characters.
Chin also did some additional online research and used the stories she heard growing up.
â€œIf, for example, I wanted to write on silk cotton, I would ask myself if what I thought was true and if I remembered it correctly. So I would go online, check it out and search. I would go to several sources. “
While writing, Chin also posted excerpts from the stories on social media for his friends’ comments.
One of his main challenges was to be concise.
â€œYes, I could have gone everywhere with the stories and I wanted to go everywhere with the stories. But I had to control myself. I sat down and thought about it and realized that the stories were as good as they were when I was done.
During his studies in Europe, including his pilgrimage to Spain, Chin discovered many European folklore and myths. For example, the god Thor has a prominent place in Scandinavian culture.
Seeing the pride foreigners have in their culture, Chin wants the people of TT to be connected to theirs and to feel the same way. At the moment, she thinks little is being done to promote local history or folklore.
While writing for entertainment purposes, Chin was advised to include a “words of note” section in Tabanca and other stories. Readers can use it to learn more about a part of the vocabulary.
As well as being sold in bookstores like Scribbles and Quills in Chaguanas, and Paper Based Bookshop at Normandie Hotel, St Ann’s, the book is also available on Amazon. To date, it has sold nearly 200 copies.
Although she has started working on a second part, she takes her time to develop it properly. But like the first book, she’s not sure which direction it will take and it might turn out to be something entirely new.
Chin’s advice to others interested in writing is to enjoy the trip and get a lot of feedback when writing. When they’re ready to publish, Chin also encourages other writers to have an editor review the work.
â€œWriting is something that should be enjoyable. But also take advantage of all the steps that lead to a real published product.
“Don’t be surprised if you get frustrated along the way, because it’s only natural.”
Those interested in Chin’s book can follow her on Instagram @trinidadfolklo or like trinidadfolklo on Facebook.