- Book: Blue-Skinned Gods
- Location: Tamil Nadu
- Author: S J Sindu
Here is a story that brims with imagination and vibrancy. As protagonist Kalki’s tenth birthday approaches, he’s wracked with guilt-laced misgivings about himself and his capabilities. After all, the blue-skinned boy knows himself as the latest and last reincarnation of Hindu god Vishnu and that is rather a lot to live up to. Not least, on or near his birthday he must pass three vital tests that will prove to his father Ayya and all who come to the ashram that he is a real god.
One of the tests involves the healing of Roopa, a gravely ill child left at the ashram by her parents. Kalki performs his healing ritual while Ayya slips Roopa medicine to make her better. Another test is the miraculous appearance of white horses. They do appear, but then Kalki sees the tyre tracks of a truck.
The father Ayya is a medical doctor, a domineering figure in Kalki’s life who rules the ashram and all within it with an iron fist. I do not know of other young boys who might be groomed in the way that Ayya grooms his son, but I cannot help but be reminded of Jiddhu Krishnamurti, raised by his adoptive Charles Webster Leadbeater, along with then head of the Theosophical Society Annie Besant, to be the new World Teacher. Like Kalki, Krishnamurti eventually renounced the role imposed on him.
Doubt, puzzlement and disbelief pervade the narrative as tragedy upon tragedy befall the family, all caused by Ayya’s dictatorial ways. Kalki’s inner monologue as he witnesses the struggles of those around him, and endures struggles and heartache of his own, is very well handled. Ultimately it is the way that he comes to terms with his own identity as a mere mortal that makes this novel special.
As in all coming of age stories, Kalki must become a man and find his place in the world. When he eventually goes on a world tour with his father, he discovers things about himself that change him forever. His inner questioning intensifies after he arrives in New York, helped along by his childhood friend Lakshman who had moved to the United States as a child.
Right from the start the author evokes a powerful sense of place, as luscious as the syrupy jack fruit Kalki eats at midnight on his tenth birthday. Sindu conjures the magic of India, the lush landscape of the south, the aromatic spices, along with the religious beliefs and rituals of Hinduism that underpin to a large degree traditional Indian culture. A sensitive, considered and expansive read.