Proving to all cynics that love transcends class, race, and even geographical location, this is the story of an Indian man, a Swedish woman, and their triumph over circumstance.
Born an “untouchable,” the lowest caste in Indian society, Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia met blue-eyed Swede Charlotte Von Schedvin in a whirlwind of good fortune, and instantly fell in love. Her return to her home country left Pradyumna heartbroken; however, he was determined to prove that nothing would keep them apart, even the small matter of the 10,000 kilometers separating them.
Their meeting was written in the stars. Indian parents often consider the futures of their newborn children by consulting astrologers, and when Pradyumna was a baby boy, his parents were told that he would escape the typical Indian arranged marriage by meeting a woman from far away, born a Taurus, who owned land or forest and, most curiously, played the flute.
Could such a person exist for their son? Little did the family know just how accurate this forecast would turn out to be!
Pradyumna suffered a difficult childhood. “I was treated even worse than stray dogs and cattle,” Pradyumna shared. “When I passed by a temple, people threw rocks at me.”
As a teen, Pradyumna fled to Delhi and used his artistic talent to earn a living on the streets, drawing portraits. Charlotte Von Schedvin, a Swedish tourist, found him there. Pradyumna, suddenly reminded of the prophecy of his youth, flooded her with questions: Where was she from? What was her zodiac sign? Did she play the flute? Did she own land? As Charlotte answered, Pradyumna’s heart rate quickened.
“It fits,” Pradyumna exclaimed, “you are meant to be my wife!”
Pradyumna and Charlotte wasted no time in falling head over heels in love, even marrying in an intimate, traditional ceremony in Pradyumna’s hometown.
However, “happily ever after” came at a price. Shortly after marrying, Charlotte had to return to Sweden. Pradyumna made the heartfelt promise that he would join her as soon as possible. Their separation extended from weeks into months, with the couple writing long, romantic letters to sustain them. Pradyumna, impatient to return to his wife’s side, sold everything he owned, but it was still not enough for a plane ticket.
In desperation, Pradyumna bought a secondhand bicycle for 60 rupees (approx. US$0.91), bid his family farewell, and set off on the long journey to Sweden, with a pocket full of small change and a heart full of longing.
The journey lasted five months. Setting off on Jan. 22, 1977, Pradyumna cycled 72 kilometers every single day, reaching a total of 9,656 kilometers by the end of his trip. “My legs ached but my desire to see Charlotte pushed me forward,” Pradyumna recalled.
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Disaster almost struck upon arriving in Sweden when immigration authorities disbelieved his incredible story and wouldn’t let him pass. However, Charlotte soon arrived to lay claim to the truth, and a relieved, exhausted Pradyumna was let in. “If you really want to, everything becomes possible. Fear and doubts are our main foes,” he mused.
Pradyumna reached Boras, Sweden, on May 28 of 1977 after two years of painful separation from his beloved wife. “We couldn’t talk. We just cried in each other’s embrace,” he said of their emotional reunion.
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The couple were re-married with Charlotte’s family’s blessing in 1979.
Forty years since their incredible reunion in Boras, the couple are still deeply in love. Pradyumna beams with gratitude for his luck and happiness, but also takes pride in his role in their reunion: “Your fate is something you make with your own hands.”
Extraordinary photographs shared on Pradyumna’s Facebook page chronicle the couple’s unique journey of love, family, separation, and happy reunion.
When asked about their secrets to long-term marriage, the couple smiled to each other and replied that there are no secrets; there is simply sincerity, tolerance, and respect. Nothing can stand in the way of true love and the strength and determination it gives us.
Pradyumna and Charlotte’s story is living proof.
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