This is an interview with author Mark Stephen Levy, who recently visited Kerala after 26 years. Mark is an American traveller and the author of 'Overland' which is his published work. He worked as a radio interviewer, before he turned to a travel enthusiast.
What was your Kerala experience 26 years ago?
Thiruvananthapuram and mainly Kovalam beach was my introduction to India and I fell in love with Kerala and India as a whole within the first minute of my arrival in the country. It was like nothing I have ever seen before and embraced it immediately.
Was it a different feel and experience this time around?
Yes this time the experience has been different and I knew that since I am visiting this country after almost three decades. India has grown as a nation, and so has Kerala. Yet there's a simplistic charm which I feel is the same and I can connect with that.
As a traveller and writer, what do you reckon as the most important factor that connects Kerala to a traveller?
The best part about Kerala is the beauty of the landscape and relaxed atmosphere and graciousness of its people. You can never miss these elements which will leave an everlasting impression and you will always want to return to this 'God's Own Country', like I did!
Do you find Kerala as a unique destination in India? If yes, then why is it so?
It is without doubt that Kerala is unique in its own way and for me the people of this state are very well-educated and create some lively discussions and also the food is delicious with the blend of spices and all the choices of seafood. One cannot describe Kerala by just writing about it, he or she needs to be in the place to enjoy it personally.
Any memorable experience during your travels so far in Kerala?
There have been many memorable moments during my stay in Kerala. When I visited 26 years ago, I loved Kovalam the moment I set my foot. The best part is that it gives a person a very relaxed atmosphere where one can stroll around the streets and seaside, choosing fresh seafood and having the food cooked for you by the restaurant. During my current visit, I made it a point to visit the Kovalam beach to see how it has changed from just a beach to an international destination and this feeling makes me feel proud to know Kovalam before it was even known to international travellers!
What would it be that you may not want to miss while in Kerala?
Right now the most talked about place in the country is the Padmanabhaswamy Temple where immerse treasure was discovered about a month back, I would definitely like to visit this temple. Then of course, I would like to visit all the beautiful and serene beaches. I also want to come back for the hill stations and tea plantations. So I have many reasons to return to this state.
If you are to refer Kerala to a friend back home in the United States what would be the first thing that you would say about Kerala to that person?
Pack your bags and go to Kerala, the memories will last a lifetime.
Any Kerala food that you would love to try again?
Garlic fish is what I had 26 years ago and the first thing I ate at Kovalam beach the other day was the same. I truly love it.
Your likely visit to Kerala next time...will it take another 26 years!?
No (smiles), I'll be 84 years old if I wait that long...if things go the way I hope as I promote my book Overland, may be next year I will be again in Kerala, Inshallah!