Mahesh Rajan's debut short stories, Illusion of Control, is all about self-belief
Taking control of our own lives and desperately wanting things to happen the way we want is a common human psyche. It is this process of the human mind that has been captured beautifully by the director of strategy-turned-author Mahesh Rajan in his speculative fiction, Illusions of control. The anthology of seven stories that was released on Valentine’s Day, is tag lined – Stories of beings with a hero complex. Mahesh shares with us the journey of his debut book and taking inspiration from everything around him. Excerpts:
What was the idea behind Illusions of Control?
Every story in the book has been inspired by events, stories, even articles from science journals. The same goes for the title. In the Dark Knight, the Joker says “I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempt to control things really is.” I kept making so many plans, and so did my friends, but nothing in life ever go according to our plans. That’s why the title Illusions of Control. Because that's what it is, all our plans to control our fate are merely an illusion. Of course, this is not always true, but in the context of this book, the title is apt.
The tagline Stories of Beings with a Hero Complex, is quite interesting. Can you throw more light on it?
Like I mentioned earlier, each of us is trying to take control of what’s happening around us. We don’t like to lose control. We are the heroes in our stories. The same goes for the characters in the book. Each of them is trying to overcome a particularly difficult scenario in their lives, but are they trying to take control of the situations around them and forcing change or are they going with the flow of things to handle the situations around them.
For example, all of us had plans, we could have been planning a trip, or building a new house, or directing a new movie, or releasing one, or a job promotion, buying a car any number of things in 2019-2020. We thought we have everything under control, the money, the time, but then the virus made a mess out of everyone's plans. Not only did the virus mess peoples plans, it forced them to spend more on areas we wouldn’t have considered spending before on. All we had was an ‘Illusion’ of control over our lives.
The one-word chapter names seem to discuss specific attributes. Are they preachy?
Not at all. They are actually describing the stories. There is a clue in every title about the story, but you’ll have to read the book to figure it out.
This is your debut book, what inspired you to pick up the pen?
The lockdown! I didn’t have any more excuses. Plus, I’ve always wanted to write, but my crippling self-doubt never let me do anything productive. The fear of what people would say held me back from everything that I wanted to do.
I came across a video by Hip Hop Tamizha. During an audio release or some event, I forget which, he was responding to critics who panned him for his musical skills, and his acting skills. The critics were like “Who is this young guy with no experience now directing movies, making music”. Hip Hop Tamizha’s reply was simple: “You are right, if I, like you said a nobody, can do it, everyone can do it.” That kind of inspired me as well.
How long did it take to write the book?
Roughly about 10 months or so. I had written two stories earlier, I just had to edit them, and change a few parts.
Where did the chapters derive inspirations from?
Everywhere. Scenes from movies where I thought the character should have done something else, to folk tales, to science journals, to articles on AI, and to mysteries plaguing the scientific community.
Who are your favourite authors?
There are so many of them. I like reading from Tolkien to Chuck Palahniuk. I also love reading comics, writers like Alan Moore, Mark Waid, Dan jargons, Grant Morison.
As far as writing goes, I honestly have no clue. I do have one more story that I would like to tell. I’m hoping I can actually get myself to sit down and write it.