Today in Dalit History, we celebrate the incredible story of Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia (PK), a Dalit street artist, who bicycled from India to Sweden to reunite with the love of his life!
Growing up in Orissa, he faced the deep trauma of untouchability “I was below the dogs and cows,” he says, “I had to sit outside the classroom. The moment I went near the temple, people started throwing stones. Those things, I never forget.”
He grew up to become an artist and drew street portraits in Delhi. In 1975, he first met the young Swedish tourist, Lotta von Schedvin, when she asked for a portrait. there was instant enchantment between them.
They felt as if they had already known each other and their meeting was only a reunion. A few days after, they traveled to the native village in Orissa where they met PK’s family members. Soon after, however, Lotta needed to get back to Sweden and finish up school. Lotta and PK continued to keep in touch through letters but missed each other terribly.
One day, PK decided that he couldn’t bear to be apart from Lotta and had to go to see Lotta in Sweden. Because he wouldn’t imagine having enough to cover the cost of the flight, he decided he would bycycle the whole 7000 km. He packed a sleeping bag, a few clothes, about 5000 rupees and his passport and set off on a ladies’ Raleigh bicycle.
Sleeping on fields, in tents, under the stars and tirelessly biking, he cycled across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Germany, Austria and Denmark. He met people along the way who helped him. It helped that he was charming and talented and was able talk to the border officers along the way and persuade them by drawing their portraits.
After a 16 month separation, PK and Lotta were reunited again in Sweden! They moved in together, got married and eventually decided to stay in Sweden. They had two children Emilie and Karl Siddhartha.
As a family, they now promote the indigenous arts of Orissa around the world and offer scholarships to Dalit children in India.
“Love has given me the power to forgive the people throwing stones at me. They need education. I’m glad that our story is giving people hope.” says PK.
Also look out the book that details their wonderful story: The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled From India to Europe for Love, by Per J Andersson
From – Dalit History Month Collective