Monday, 18 July 2016

The man who cycled from India to Europe

Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia (born 1949) usually referred to as Dr. P.K. Mahanandia, India-born Swedish artist famous for his 4 months and 3 weeks journey by a bicycle from India to Europe in 1977 to meet his love Charlotte Von Schedvin.

PK Mahanandia met Charlotte Von Schedvin in Delhi for the first time in 1975

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 wasn't impressed with the result and decided to come back the next day. The next day sadly, proved no better.

Whenever he felt sad, his mother would tell him that according to his horoscope, he would someday marry a woman "whose zodiac sign would be Taurus, she would come from a far away land, she would be musical and would own a jungle". So when he met Ms Von Schedvin, he immediately remembered his mother's predictions and asked her if she owned a jungle. Ms Von Schedvin, whose family comes from Swedish nobility, replied that she did own a forest and added that not only was she "musical" (she liked to play the piano) her zodiac sign was also Taurus.

After several conversations, she agreed to visit Orissa with him. The first monument she saw there was the famous Konark temple. "I became emotional when PK showed me the Konark. I had this image of the temple stone wheel framed in my student room back in London, but I had no idea where this place actually was. And here I was standing in front of it." The two fell in love and returned to Delhi after spending a few days in his village. "She wore a sari when she met my father for the first time. I still don't know how she managed.

With blessings from my father and family, we got married according to tribal tradition," he said.

Ms Von Schedvin had driven to Delhi with her friends from Sweden along the famous hippie trail - crossing Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan - to reach India in 22 days. She said goodbye to him to start her return journey. More than a year passed and the two kept in touch through letters.

Mr Mahanandia however, did not have enough money to buy a plane ticket. So, he sold everything he owned, bought a bicycle and followed her along the same hippie trail. His journey started on 22 January 1977 and he would cycle for around 70km (44 miles) every day. "Art came to my rescue. I made portraits of people and some gave me money, while others gave me food and shelter," he said. Mr Mahanandia remembers the world as being very different in the 1970s. For instance, he did not need a visa to enter most countries. He finally reached Europe on 28 May - via Istanbul and Vienna, and then travelled to Gothenburg by train.

After several cultural shocks and difficulties in impressing Ms Von Schedvin's parents, the two finally got officially married in Sweden. The 64-year-old now lives with Charlotte and their two children in Sweden and continues to work as an artist.

But he still doesn't understand "why people think it was a big deal to cycle to Europe". "I did what I had to, I had no money but I had to meet her. I was cycling for love, but never loved cycling. It's simple."

No comments:

Post a Comment