Indian artist PK Mahanandia met Charlotte Von Schedvin on a winter evening in Delhi in 1975 when she asked him to draw her portrait.
Pradyumna had a difficult childhood as he belonged to the lowest caste of untouchables of Indian society. “I was treated worse than stray dogs and cattle.” Pradyumna remembers, “When I passed by a temple, people threw rocks at me.”
He used to draw portraits during his youth and Ms Von Schedvin was visiting India as a tourist when she spotted Mr Mahanandia in Delhi’s Connaught Place district.
Intrigued by his claim of “making a portrait in 10 minutes”, she decided to give it a try. But she was not impressed with the result and decided to come back the next day. But unfortunately, she was not impressed the next day either.
After that, the couple started liking each other and they soon got married in Pradyumna’s village in line with local tradition. But Charlotte had to come back to Sweden. Pradyumna promised to join her there as soon as he could.
The couple lived separately for 16 months and wrote letters to each other. Pradyumna understood that he couldn’t live without his beloved any longer.
He sold all his possessions but it was still not enough to buy an air ticket. He ended up buying a used bicycle for 60 rupees, said good-bye to his family, and hit the road with 200 rupees in his pocket.
On January 22, 1977, his journey began and Pradyumna covered 45 miles every day. By the time he reached Sweden, he had covered over 6,000 miles.
“I was very tired. My legs ached but my desire to see Charlotte pushed me forward. My art saved me, I drew portraits of people who paid with money, food or a place to sleep at night.”
His journey was easier because those times, many countries didn’t demand visas for entrance. Authorities didn’t believe his story, they thought it was too extraordinary. But when he reached Sweden, Immigration refused to let Pradyumna into the country as soon as they called Charlotte, they understood that his story was true and they let him pass.
Pradyumna was asked whether it was possible for migrating poor people to make the same journey during present times, he answered, “Yes. If you really want it, everything becomes possible. Of course, such a journey is more difficult now, but it is still possible. Fear and doubts are our main foes. It is them that make our life more complicated.”
Pradyumna reached Boras on May 28, 1977, and finally met Charlotte after being separated from her for 2 long years.
Charlotte’s parents accepted them for the happiness of their daughter and the couple married again in 1979, in accordance with Swedish laws.
Now 40 years have passed and when asked about the secret of their love, the couple says that there is no secret. The main thing is to be sincere, to understand each other, and to respect each other.
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