Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia, an underprivileged boy of a remote village in Orissa, India. He became the “Man Who Cycled From India To Europe For Love”.
Throughout his childhood, he had never seen the face of love from the outside world. PK was born in a poor village that made him “untouchable” and unlovable. The village is located in central Orissa, now known as Angul. His only source of his love was his wonderful mother who made her son’s life by disclosing to him a prophecy that an astrologer had made during the time of his birth:
“You will marry a girl who is not from the village, not from the district, not even from our country; she will be musical, own a jungle and be born under the sign of the ox.”
He always kept this prophecy close to his heart. He had strong faith in those words.
Along with his prophecy, he moved to Delhi after receiving a scholarship to study fine arts at the College of Art, University of Delhi. His mother taught him painting and that’s the first thing he learned from his mother. The paintings of his mother inside the walls of their hut had made a deep impression on him.
One day, he saw Valentina Tereshkova(the first female cosmonaut) of the Soviet Union waving at people. So, he made a quick sketch of her and presented it to her. The next day, he was all over the Indian newspapers: “Woman from Space meets Jungle man.”
For PK, that one meeting with her opened up new avenues. He was blessed with the opportunity to sketch the portraits of Indira Gandhi and also of the former U.S. Ambassador to India, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. His reputation as the artist who could make ‘a portrait in 10 minutes’ spread like wildfire. And that’s what brought him face to face with the love of his life- Charlotte Von Schedvin- on December 17, 1975.
His love of life, Charlotte was keen on getting her portrait done by PK. But on the first day, she was disappointed with the results . She thought of giving one more try and went to him again the next day. But that too wasn’t any better for Charlotte. Actually, he was a little too preoccupied with the prophecy to devote his heart into making Charlotte’s portrait. He stated that “During our first meeting we were drawn to each other like magnets. It was love at first sight.”
He was so charmed that he invited her to tea:
“I still don’t know what made me ask her the questions and then invite her for tea. I thought she would complain to the police.”
When he invited her, she shared her loving company with PK. They started chatting with each other and was revealed that not only did Charlotte own a forest, she also liked to play the piano. The fact that she was a Taurus was a cherry on the top! PK knew she was the one for him.
After 3 days of travel, their meetings and conversation culminated in marriage , with blessings from his family, when they visited his birthplace in Orissa.
Soon after the ceremony they parted since Charlotte had to return to Sweden to complete her studies and he still had to finish his final year at the university. For almost a year to used to write letters.
PK’s financial condition is not good that he can afford a plane ticket, but he was determined to be with his love. He bought a bicycle after selling everything he owned . That’s the beginning of his epic journey. He decided to reach Sweden through the ‘Hippie Trail’- the same route through which Charlotte had reached India in 22 days, after crossing Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. During that time one didn’t need a visa to enter most countries. On January 22, 1977, he began his journey and cycled his way through various places along the trail over a span of 5 months!
During his journey, he met people of different cultures. During his difficult days, kind strangers would treat him well with food and shelter. As a token of thanks, he would make sketches for them. Wherever language stood as a barrier, PK demolished it through the universal language of art.
Finally, on May 28, 1977, PK reached Europe, via Istanbul and Vienna. Brushing past the initial difficulties in impressing Charlotte’s parents, the happy couple got officially hitched in Sweden, where PK continues to work as an artist to this day. Blessed with two children, Siddharth and Emelie, PK Mahanandia and Charlotte Von Schedvin have been married for over 40 years.