At first glance, Charlotte von Sledvin, a Swedish woman clad in a saree, greeting people in Odia here gives an impression that she may be one among the thousands of foreigners who have made India their home.

But the story of Ms. Sledvin’s emotional bonding with Odisha sets her apart from the rest.

The Swedish national, whose marriage with P. K. Mahanandia, a painter hailing from Odisha, was no less interesting than a Bollywood flick, continues to value her relationship.

Royal link

Connected with the Swedish Royal family, Ms. Sledvin had fallen in love with Mr. Mahanadia, who was making her portrait in 1975. Subsequently, they got married.

However, the saga that followed seems to have no parallel.

The Odisha painter had undertaken a bicycle ride from India to Sweden to meet his wife. Mr. Mahanandia, who was born in a Dalit family in his village, then went on to become a cultural ambassador in Sweden. “My marriage was perhaps decided in heaven. When I met my husband making my portrait at Connaught Place in New Delhi, I felt there was some connection. From there on, we have followed the language of love,” Ms Sledvin said on the sidelines of the IX convocation of KIIT University where she received an honorary doctorate degree on behalf of her husband.

Cultural divide

She said, “despite living for more than four decades in Sweden, my husband has not forgotten his Odisha roots. I also valued it.” Ms. Sledvin also reciprocated the sacrifice Mr. Mahanandia made and the love he showed for her. Although there was a huge cultural divide between Sweden and Odisha, she made it a point to visit the ancestral house of the painter frequently. “I take care of my husband’s fondness for snacks of Odisha and the neem twig which he uses to clean his teeth. Whenever I return to Sweden from India, I unfailingly pack these items with me,” she said.

Says that her marriage with the painter from Odisha, P.K. Mahanandia, may have been decided in heaven