S.J. Sindu’s Blue-Skinned Gods follows Kalki, an Indian boy born with blue skin, who believes that he is the tenth incarnation of the Hindu god, Vishnu. In this excerpt, Kalki expresses thoughts on his difference as he prepares to meet with Roopa, the girl who will be his first miracle.
1. In the story, Kalki struggles with self-doubt about his abilities and tries to fight against it. Are there times when doubt can be positive and embraced?
2. How do Hinduism and its stories relate to renewal? Do they view it positively? Negatively? Both?
Examine the services that Susquehanna offers related to spiritual life and visit some of these spaces on campus. Reflect on the ways that different beliefs can strengthen a community.
Imagine you’ve been told from your earliest days that you are special. In fact, you are the most special person in the whole world. You can imagine that, right? It’s a message many modern American parents give their children. In this excerpt from the novel Blue-Skinned Gods, author S.J. Sindu, who was born in Sri Lanka and immigrated to the United States at the age of seven, turns up the volume on this message. Since birth, Sindu’s main character has been told that he is a god! As the human reincarnation of Vishnu, he will be tested in trials of immeasurable importance, tests of life and death.
Can you imagine the pressure? Can you remember that, throughout your life, you have faced tests? Turn up the volume. Imagine being in the middle of a test in which you are trying so hard, the pressure is so awful, your fear of failure so intense, that you start to cry. You are going to fail, and no one around you—not your parents, cousins, friends, community—will be able to handle this inevitability.
Now, imagine that a stranger says something unexpectedly shocking, and the balloon of pressure just bursts. You laugh. Continue to cry. Life is going to change, you know it, but the future is unclear, scary, humbling. This sort of renewal cycle is what happens to all of us if we try hard at something. Our eventual, inevitable failure is the very thing, perhaps the only thing, that can lead to renewal. This hard lesson is a pill best swallowed in fiction.
This video by Crash Course provides information on the Indian pantheon, including its history, the gods and their roles, and the relationships between gods.
S.J. Sindu is a Tamil diaspora author of two literary novels, two hybrid chapbooks, and a forthcoming graphic novel. Her first novel, Marriage of a Thousand Lies, won the Publishing Triangle Edmund White Award and was a Stonewall Honor Book and a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Sindu’s second novel, Blue-Skinned Gods, was published in 2021 by Soho Press, and her graphic novel, Shakti, is forthcoming from Harper Collins. A 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow, Sindu holds an MA in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a PhD in English and Creative Writing from Florida State University. Sindu teaches at the University of Toronto Scarborough.
For more information on the Hindu god Vishnu, check out this article by the World History Encyclopedia. It details incarnations, mythology, and artistic representations surrounding Vishnu. One such work is represented below:
To learn more about spiritual life on campus, check out the Religious and Spiritual life page on Susquehanna's website. The site offers a welcome from the school chaplain, information on services, and links to on-campus spiritual organizations and affiliations.