The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love

by Per J Andersson

Hardcover, 2017

Call number




Oneworld Publications (2017), 272 pages


"The story begins in a public square in New Delhi. On a cold December evening a young European woman of noble descent appears before an Indian street artist known locally as PK and asks him to paint her portrait--it is an encounter that will change their lives irrevocably. PK was not born in the city. He grew up in a small remote village on the edge of the jungle in East India, and his childhood as an untouchable was one of crushing hardship. He was forced to sit outside the classroom during school, would watch classmates wash themselves if they came into contact with him, and had stones thrown at him when he approached the village temple. According to the priests, PK dirtied everything that was pure and holy. But had PK not been an untouchable, his life would have turned out very differently. This is the remarkable true story of how love and courage led PK to overcome extreme poverty, caste prejudice and adversity--as well as a 7,000-mile, adventure-filled journey across continents and cultures--to be with the woman he loved."--Publisher description.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member puneetsingh
A very interesting book that tells the story of Pradyumna Kumar, an artist from an oppressed untouchable community in Orissa, India who followed his prophecy to live in a new world, never dreamt of before. The book is simply written and very easy to read. It is a good way to learn about all the implicit and explicit ways a person's caste is perceived and treated in India. It doesn't hold back any details. Although initially, it sounds more like a third person narrative, by the middle of the book you start relating with PK. His adventures are extraordinary but believable. You learn about the lives of the westerners on the hippie trail in the 1970s. It's real and genuine, because of the successes and failures we see in PKs life. My favorite parts are understanding the naivete of the main character, his honest and true love for his Lotta. I would definitely recommend this book to someone keen to learn about the caste system in India, from the perspective of someone growing up in a rapidly 'developing' and 'modern' country and yet facing the systemic challenges that have plagued society for millennia. It doesn't romanticize it or commercialize it like movies such as Slumdog Millionaire.… (more)
LibraryThing member padmajoy
I enjoyed reading this book because of the accurate way it depicts life in India.
I thought that I would have like to have the female character developed more and at the same time I got tired of reading the details of PK's life. I realize he is the main character but I wondered what it was about the woman that made him fall in love with her and go to such lengths to get to her.
I found this book to be funny, tragic and satisfying to read. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in Indian culture (middle class) and life.
Offers insight into the class structure in India and the class distinctions.
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LibraryThing member padmajoy
This book gave valuable insights into the life of a typical Indian boy. The information about the caste system was fascinating, and how it influences the choices available for education and life.
I would have liked more information about the woman and why he was so in love with her, as he hardly knew her; or his other motives for going to such ends to get to her.… (more)
LibraryThing member yukon92
I received a free copy of the ARC of this book through the LTER members give-away. I therefore can only base my opinion on the ARC I read. The first thing to note is that I really missed having a map of the location and traveling route that is set mainly in India. I also noted that at the end of the book is a long section for a "photo album" - this was also blank in the ARC. I wish publishers would try to include these items in the previews that the want rated.
The book itself wasn't too bad, but also not very exciting. The fact that it is based on a true story is very nice. However, it was more than halfway through the book before the main character (PK) actually started his travels on his bike (which he only used part of the way!) from India to Sweden. That was not what I expected from a book with the above title! Would I buy it? Probably not! Would I watch the movie? Probably!
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LibraryThing member whitreidtan
In writing you want the reader to be grabbed within the first few sentences so they want to keep reading. It's pretty impressive when that intrigue happens with the title of the book before the reader even gets the cover open. A man rode a bicycle from India to Europe for love? Now that's a story I'd like to read. Unfortunately that's not exactly the bulk of the story told in Per J. Andersson's piece of long form travel journalism/history/biography here. Instead it's a blend of Indian history with a heavy emphasis on the caste system and the plight of the Dalits (untouchables) through the eyes of one man who eventually followed the woman he loved to Sweden.

Padyumna Kumar (known as PK) was born in a small village in India. His family were Dalits and this fact colored every day of his life, from school to worship to others' treatment of him in general. Despite the many, many road blocks placed in his path, PK was intelligent, artistic, and determined so he moved to New Delhi in search of a better life and perhaps also in search of the woman mentioned in the prophecy made when he was just a baby that declared he would marry a woman from far away, outside the country. Andersson tells of PK's life in the capital, occasionally veering from it to tell of a young Swedish girl, Lotta, who had a fascination with and a pull towards India. The bulk of the story, however, is not Lotta's life, it is PK's, which weaves in the injustice and inequity in the social system in India but also shows the incredible experiences and helping hands that PK found in progressive and friendly people as he eked out a living in New Delhi and as he eventually sets off on his bicycle to reunite with Lotta.

The book has a long, slow build-up that made it unfortunately easy to put aside in lieu of other reading. It also seems to be unable to decide if it is the story of a poor Dalit artist in a slowly changing India or a love story or a history or a travelogue. It has elements of all of these, leaving the book to feel unfocused and clumsy. Perhaps this is a function of the translation but I suspect not. This is a true story and should have all the nuance of a good non-fiction work but it doesn't really. PK is the best fleshed out while Lotta lacks the depth to be the real person she is and their love is presented as almost fait accompli simply because it's fated. It is supposed to be such a strong love that PK chooses to hop on his bicycle to find her many thousands of miles away and yet there's little given to the reader to actually show how that love came about. There is a lot of the book to get through before PK starts out on his crazy journey but the actual journey and his life in Sweden with Lotta are given fairly short shrift in the end. I don't know whether I wanted a more sweeping love story or a deeper history or a more detailed travelogue but that is perhaps the biggest problem with the book: it gives you just a tiny bit of each and none of them stand on their own as complete in the end.
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LibraryThing member cwlongshot
A good book but too easy to put down. It took a long time to complete.




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