By R P Samal | PUBLISHED: 27, Aug 2010, 20:26 pm IST | UPDATED: 10, Mar 2017, 11:32 am IST
He undertook the inconveniences of a long journey on a second hand bicycle, which was timeworn and needed more of repair and rest than crossing international boundaries under depressing conditions. Since the roads were harsh, he had to change his bicycles five times without the stray thought of changing his mind even once. It was as if to say an emphatic no to his will to go back. The chill touch of winter in Amritsar turned into brutal rain of snow in Afghanistan. But his journey continued unabated unmindful of the menacing weather and he always felt the presence of an invisible angel around him during the whole trip.
At the city of Herat he was elated to paint the portrait of his Highness Dr. Kulam Ali Aum, the Governor who was kind enough to extend his visa for few more weeks for him to stay in Afghanistan. He had no proper map. It was not needed because there was only one road from east to west in Afghanistan built by Russians. He knew that he should move in that direction where sun was setting everyday. Mr. Alp Karaosm, Ambassador of Turkey in Kabul gladly gave him a transit visa for Turkey after he sketched him. An Australian girl Ms. Sari helped him in a Kabul disco to arrange visa for Iran in a way that had no equal in words. He crossed the very cold sand of Gazni with thought of Mohammed Ghori from history occupying his mind.
It was a wonderful experience at the coast of Caspean Sea in Iran where he slept a couple of nights under open sky. In Turkey he found it easy to hitchhike by trucks. Truck drivers were fond of their portraits. He faced no problem in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia but in Germany police detained him suspecting him to be a drug dealer. They did not find any thing in his bag except the artist’s portfolio and newspaper clippings on his paintings exhibition in Kabul. The police chief understood that he was married to a Swedish national who had a “Von” title. After getting his portrait drawn, the police chief wished him good-luck and was pleased to let him proceed. On the way he watched the appearance of nature in the countryside and painted portraits of people and won their hearts to keep him warm.
But the cold grew more intense to dampen his confidence. His body became benumbed, heart heavy and the distance looked so mournful in its limitlessness on the unending roads. Sometimes tears of nostalgia for homeland welled up in his eyes. But he was so much wrapped up in the contemplation of Charlotte that the ordinary in him got changed into extra-ordinary. Keeping life on one side and death on the other he advanced towards his destination. He was about to collapse in extreme conditions but the cruelty of day’s painful labour of cycling used to evaporate in the dreams at night. After full four months of pedaling he reached Sweden on 28th. May 1977 dirty, exhausted and barely had the strength to stand steady on his feet.
At Denmark border a lady named Christina smuggled him into Sweden where he met an Immigration Officer and revealed the story. There was a frown on the cheek of the officer, he narrowed his eyes in dislike at the young man and said in a contemptuous tone, which was not unusual to the men of his class in speaking to a non-white Asian. He was not ready to believe that the daughter from a Royal Noble family could select such a non-white short man as her groom. He asserted in a firm voice ‘your would-be father-in-law is flawless in firing guns. If you love your life, run away from this country right now. Otherwise he will shoot you to death at first sight’.
For the man who had crossed thousand miles through mountainous terrains, peopleless deserts, tiger populated jungles and had often narrowly escaped jaws of death, these unkind words failed to harrow his feelings. He was not moved by the dramatics of his threat and hence paid no attention to him. He reached out to a public telephone and got connected to his sweet heart. The voice at the other end of the receiver made thousand buds to bloom in his thorn filled life and he was overwhelmed with a new kind of joy barely known to the mortals. Lifetime of dream turned into happening.
He felt himself lifted up into the air towards ecstasy when she herself came driving down to say Vel Comen Pradyumna, welcome to Sweden. But moments later he started shivering in his shoes to encounter her gun-wielding father. He was speechless with fascination when toughest man gave him the most decent reception. A loving handshake, an affectionate hug drove away all his apprehensions. The pencil sketch of their love suddenly got filled out with colours of approval from the elders. Love of man for man shocked all the orthodox conventions, upset the age-old tradition and connected human hearts with melody of the eternal.
Lotta with Pradumna
Charllote, now Lota has relaxed attitudes towards religion and prays Lord Jagannath at home with unerring regularity for bliss. For her, their marriage was not unusual because they were husband and wife for the last several births. For Pradyumna, Charllote is his life, love, art and everything. Swedish Government in honour of their love has taken due care to produce films to document this immortal love of the century. The orient and the occident met and merged to enhance the beauty of human nature. His paintings have been exhibited in major cities of the world and have found places in the prestigious UNICEF greeting cards.
Pradyumna is well known in Sweden as an artist and is working as an Adviser, Art and Culture, under the Swedish Government. When asked how he could find the reserve of will to cover such a long distance to which he replies ‘It is the beckoning of love and will of the Lord.’ Today varied experience in his life had strengthened his conviction that with justice in his heart, man can have beauty in his character. With beauty in his character he can have harmony at home. With harmony at home there will be order in the country and with the order in the country there will be peace in the world.
They have a son Karle and a daughter Emile with the latter playing on flute which means filling sweet melodies in the heart of a hollow bamboo: truly inheriting the instinct of her parents.
Their Love story is known to every household in Sweden. One day in the train, an old lady was full of tears while reading their story in a glossy magazine. Pradyumna, who was sitting next to her, revealed that he was the same lover. She could not believe it. He fished out his purse and showed their marriage photograph. The old lady became so ecstatic that she went on kissing him all over his face.
Tagore once said, ‘My salutations are to them who knew me imperfect and loved me.’ When Rabindranath wrote this, he did not know that one-day in Sweden a sweet woman called Charllote would be born to live up to these immortal lines.
by : Priti Prakash
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