The story of Dr. Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia inspires us to believe that no matter how much trouble we face at last love makes everything possible.
Born in 1949 into a poor weaver family of Odisha, Dhenkanal who were considered untouchables, Mahanandia was a gifted artist. In 1971, he joined College of Art in New Delhi and gained popularity for making portraits.
In 1975, 19-year-old Charlotte Von Sledvin, a student in London heard about him and came down all the way to India to get her portrait made by him. Love had to bloom when Mahananda was touched by Charlotte’s beauty and Charlotte’s heart was won by his simplicity.
When it was time for Charlotte to leave, she asked her love to come along but Mahanandia had to stay back in India to complete his education and send his beloved with a promise to meet her again. He denied air ticket to Europe from Charlotte and decided to reach on his own expenses.
After she left, the two kept in touch through letters. Mahanandia then sold all his belongings and bought a second-hand bicycle. Carrying all his paints and brushes along, he did the unthinkable to make the promise come true.
He set out on a voyage to the Far West with a hope to reunite with his love. This was back in 1978. He reached Amritsar from New Delhi before entering Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Germany, Austria and Denmark. After 4 months and 3 weeks of back-breaking journey, he finally reached Gothenburg, Sweden. Upon reaching, he was questioned by Swedish immigration officers who were amazed to see a man who had come from India riding a bicycle. Authorities were surprised and did not believe that someone of royal blood from Europe would marry a poor Indian.
When Charlotte learned about the man from India who cycled all the way for around 5 months, she drove to Gothenburg and received her love with unbridled happiness. Her parents accepted Pradyumna as a part of their family by breaking a royal tradition that prohibited non-white people from residing with the nobles. After 40 years of marriage, Dr PK Mahanandia serves as the Odiya Cultural Ambassador of India to Sweden and lives with his wife Charlotte and 2 children in Sweden.
Today Pk’s paintings have been exhibited in major cities of the world and have found places in the prestigious UNICEF greeting cards. He is well known in Sweden as an artist and is working as an Adviser, Art and Culture, under the Swedish Government.