Some 174 years ago when the Fatel Razack brought 227 indentured labourers from India to Trinidad, they brought with them their culture in the form of food, fashion, religion and music.
They also brought along their superstitions and folklore, things that writer of Sugar Cane Valley Vashti Bowlah thinks are not highlighted enough.
That is the reason she decided to write a book dedicated to East Indian folklore and superstition.
“If you don’t know where you came from how will you know where you’re going?” Bowlah asked.
With just over 100 pages Bowlah’s book is called Sugar Cane Valley and is based on a village with the same name. It has eleven different stories about East Indians and their experiences with folklore and superstitions.
The first story is titled the Churile of Sugar Cane Valley.
According to Bowlah, a Churile is the spirit of a pregnant woman who is looking for revenge, she would try to harm other pregnant women.
“While growing up our grandparents would tell us do not go in the bushes at 6 pm or at midday”, she said.
Curse of the Saapin is another story in Sugar Cane Valley and it’s about a snake woman also known as the Saapin.
Bowlah described this woman as a very beautiful woman who can’t keep a husband.
“Every time she gets married, her husband dies”, Bowlah said.
Then there is the Sorceress, which according to Bowlah, is a woman who uses herbs to cure illnesses, people described her as a witch and because of this she was shunned.
“The Sorceress is just misunderstood,” Bowlah said.
Another character in Bowlah’s book is the Raakhas child, which is a deformed child.
There are also stories about Jinnis and mermaids.
Research for this book according to Bowlah was not easy, she said she interviewed elders in the community.
“When I see an elderly person at an event I always approach them.” Bowlah said.
She also did a lot of reading, “I really wanted to preserve traditions that came from India for future generations” She said.
Bowlah does school tours to share her stories on East Indian folklore and Superstitions.
‘What makes it worthwhile is the feedback from students and parents” Bowlah said.
Bowlah’s Sugar Cane Valley is available at R.I.K. bookstores.
- by Carisa Lee