Blue Skinned Gods by S J Sindhu is the memoir of a childgod, Kalki, who is blueskinned and thus perceived as an avatar of Vishnu. It is a coming-of-age novel that calls out the hypocrisy of religion, castesim and the shocking attitudes towards women that persist; while dissecting sharply other aspects of society, especially patriarchy and the manner in which it controls, constructs, imbues, destroys society and relationships. It is heartbreaking to see how the young Kalki is constantly looking at his Ayya for approval but it is not easily forthcoming.
Ultimately, religion is the opiate of the masses and this book delves deep into it. It is definitely a bildungsroman too as Kalki grows, develops and goes into adulthood. Sexuality too is like an electric undercurrent in the novel as Kalki experiments. There are moments when the much older Kalki reflects back upon his life, and much has happened. He has learned to break shackles and move ahead. He lives. He experiments. He travels — metaphorically and literally. It is a pretty sharply told story.
It is a novel that exoticises India in the same manner as Raghubir Singh did with his photographs many years ago. It presents an India to the world that they associate with India. It is a book that will appeal to foreigners as it checks many boxes regarding India especially wrt Hinduism, spirituality, a way of life etc. It is saleable.A vast number of these novels are emerging from overseas markets that offer a perspective on India. In many ways they sound dated as the writers are distanced — physically and in time — from India. Whereas the country is changing so rapidly that it is unkind to present India in a specific light. Even the protagonist, Kalki, who promises to be an interesting person as he learns to defy authority, ultimately feels very wooden. While it is essential for desi literature to expand its horizons and have more and more writers contributing to this space, perhaps it is equally prudent to have more engagements, like cross-pollination of experiences, between writers based in and writing out of India with those of the diaspora.
Ideally speaking, a panel discussion between S J Sindhu and Saikat Majumdar would be fascinating. Perhaps, it can be organised?
19 Jan 2022