This is the fantastic India Story of a poor man from Odisha who cycled thousands of kilometres from his village to Sweden- just to meet his lover, who was a Swedish princess. At the outset, I will like to express my thanks to Nelson singh who has permitted me to use his photographs in this article.
India Story- Meet Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia
The hero this story is Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia who was born in 1949, just a couple of years after India gained her independence from the Britishers. Mahanandia came from the Dhenkanal district of Odisha. This district was and is one of the most impoverished regions of not just Odisha , but the entire country as well.
To make matters worse, Pradyumna’s family belonged to the lower strata of the society. His parents were extremely poor and ranked low in the social pecking order. The rest of the villagers avoided all social contact with Pradyumna and his family. The family members had to subsist on meagre rations. How tragic is this India Story? Ironically, the word ‘Pradyumna’ is also the name of the son of Lord Krishna.
Off to the Art Schools
In the early 1970s, Pradyumna gained admission to one of the best universities in India- the Vishwabharati University. Unfortunately, he did not have enough money to pay the tuition fees and had to come back to his impoverished village. Life was very painful for him.
A few months later , he got admission into an Odisha college but again, he was unable to fund his education.
Finally, lady luck smiled upon him and he got an admission to the College of Art in Delhi. It seemed, the poor lad from Odisha had found his bearing. Ladies and gentlemen, this India Story isn’t over yet.
The young man from Odisha had to struggle a lot in Delhi to carve out a living. He liked making portraits of people and found Connaught Place (now Rajiv Chowk) as the best place to find his subjects. Connaught Place was in the centre of the city, had lots of people and was also close to his college. Not surprisingly, he found many clients in this beautiful place that still oozes a lot of old world charm.
Pradyumna meets his lady love-the princess of Sweden
One day, while he was engrossed in his work, a beautiful young woman came up to him. Her name was Charlotte and she was visiting India as a traveller. Charlotte had heard about Pradyumna and wanted him to create a portrait for her.
You can’t imagine what happened in the next few minutes…both of them fell in love. Isn’t this India Story enchanting?A princess falling in love with a poor, out caste man! Haa…I wish, a princess would have found me out too…ha ha ha;))
Marriage and then separation…
Of course, the two married and the princess offered to take her new husband back to Sweden, to a life of luxury and comfort. But, our hero would have none of it. He was determined to stay back in India and fund his way for travel to Sweden.
The distraught princess , after much cajoling, left for Sweden in the fond hope that she and her husband would be soon reunited. Our hero, Pradyumna , refreshed by this marriage, went back to his work, determined that he would earn enough to see his lover once again.
Keeping in Touch
The two kept in touch with letters. There was no internet in those days so you can forget about e-mail and WhatsApp. Dear readers, please imagine the intensity of love between the two; writing a letter, posting it and waiting for the other person’s reply ! In those days, a letter from Sweden would take 14 days to reach India and vice versa. My salute to them.
Can’t bear without her..
A few months after Charlotte’s departure, Pradyumna started pining for her. He could not bear her absence. Pradyumna wanted to be with his wife-the beautiful Charlotte- at all cost.
But the poor artiste did not have enough money to fly down to Sweden! What to do?
No problem, I will cycle down
And yes, dear readers, Pradyumna took a very difficult decision. He took out his ramshackle bicycle and decided to ride down to Sweden ! His friends and well wishers tried to convince him not to do this crazy thing but, what can you do when your heart is possessed with infinite love!
With prayers on his lips and love in his heart, Pradyumna began his dangerous and arduous journey to meet his lady love. He travelled through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Central Europe and many other countries before reaching Sweden. It is easy to list down all these countries here but very , very difficult to imagine the pain that he experienced in his journey.
His cycle broke down several times.
He had no money to buy food and clothes.
Many people thought he was a spy.
His body would have ached a million times on the way.
He did not know where he could get a shelter.
HE DID NOT KNOW WHETHER HIS WIFE WOULD ACCEPT HIM OR NOT…..
After four months of painful, arduous and dangerous travel, Pradyumna reached Sweden.He did not know any Swede there. This was an alien country for the poor artiste from Odisha and he did not know what to do next. Nobody seemed to know English and for our lover here, the situation was quite pathetic.
It had taken him 4 months to ride down to Sweden and all that he wanted was to meet his wife.
Did the lovers meet?
The Swedish immigration officials promptly arrested him upon his arrival in Sweden. They thought he was a spy. He told them he was a lover. The Swedish princess was his wife and her name was Charlotte.The police was unconvinced.
Our boy from Odisha had to spend some anxious moments in Sweden before Charlotte was told by her friends of Pradyumna’s arrival in Sweden .
What……, she was overjoyed and surprised. Pradyumna has come to meet me riding a cycle! Oh, my goodness!
And you know guys, what happened next?
Reunion of the two lovebirds!!!!!!
Pradyumna and Charulata (Charlotte) now live in Sweden. They are a happy couple and have been blessed with beautiful kids. It has been more than 45 years that the couple has been living in Sweden. I wish them well.
Our man from Odisha is now a cultural ambassador of India to Sweden. He is a much loved and respected person there. He runs a Facebook page too.