Mark Stephen Levy talks about his love affair with travel and about his to be released book ‘Overland'

Where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you going? These are the three questions travellers ask each other when their paths cross. So reveals American traveller, Mark Stephen Levy who is back in India after a gap of 26 years. This time though his purpose, in addition to travel, is to launch his travelogue fiction, ‘Overland', published by Zorba Publishers Private Limited. The event is scheduled at Landmark, in New Delhi, next month.

Mark, who was in the city recently, had surprisingly begun his round-the-world sojourn, 26 years ago from Kerala. It was the starting point. He had fallen in love with the green, peaceful surroundings of Kovalam and forgotten all about his “misplaced luggage.” Except for that brief mishap, his travels, over the years, have been safe, exhilarating and satisfying. He has travelled far and wide to China, Burma, Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand, India and Europe. But India has been a land that has given him besides, friends and unforgettable experiences also his life partner, Eliane.

“I love India,” he says with visible joy, remembering vividly his meeting with Eliane at Pushkar, Rajasthan, who he married later.

His travels have given Mark a teeming network of friends, a treasure trove of memories and experiences. These are now taking shape as fiction books.

This time, though a redux journey it also carries forward the stories that are smouldering in his charmed mind. He has met up with his old friends. In Srinagar, 14-year-old Shafi has blossomed into a young man and Aziz, the owner of his ‘shikara' (houseboat), has turned old. “We were delighted to meet each other,” said Mark adding that the backdrop of Dal Lake, the ‘shikara' ride, call of the ‘muezzin' has always been a hypnotic setting for him. Mark has incorporated this in ‘Overland' and will use the imagery in the planned sequel too.

“Travels makes for very good writing,” he says and has been writing on this trip. In an essay ‘The Brotherhood of Rishikesh,' he describes the conviviality between three travellers like him, who meet at the ashram.

Though ‘Overland' is set in Kabul, Istanbul and Pakistan, where Mark has never been to, it is his Indian experiences that have given him the flavour to attempt the story and setting. “I have used experiences from my travels here but a lot of it is random. It has just been a huge creative overflow.” Will India per se feature in his works? “Definitely, there is so much to write about India. I am a sort of a cultural anthropologist and India has so many cultures on offer.” A trip to Nagaland is what Mark is keenly planning.

‘Overland', narrates the adventures in the lives of Heather and Danny, who meet and part only to meet again in very different circumstances. It is in the format of boy loves girl, boy loses girl and boy finds girl but in that framework, Mark ropes in history and stranger than reality flip flops. He defines the novel as a ‘travel adventure love story'. The end is very “Hollywood- Bollywood,” reveals Mark disclosing that new wave cinema director Vishal Bhardawaj has expressed interest in the book. May be Mark's travel adventures, the story of Heather and Danny, will find a Hindi version.

But for all the action and thrill of Mark's travels and of ‘Overland', it all began long ago from the quiet land of Kerala.

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