PK Mahanandia will speak at the United Nations on Monday, and will after appear at the book signing alongside the author at 1 p.m. at the United Nations Bookshop, GA building, Visitors' Concourse.
Why did the UN invite you to speak on March 20?
It is International Happiness Day. Maybe people aren’t very happy these days. They need some help. I haven’t prepared anything, but I will talk about what is happiness. We have to create happiness within us, because it’s not outside of us. We have to find love and give love. After I met my wife, I became the happiest man on the planet. But love isn’t always about another person. Sometimes you love something — sometimes it’s writing poems or singing songs. I come to New York now to give that message.
Why were you unhappy before you met your wife?
I was born in the jungle where the book was written. There were elephants and tigers and it was a jungle written about by Rudyard Kipling. But I was born in the caste system, and I am the lowest rank in India, an “untouchable.” I was below dogs and cows. I didn’t like school because it was organized to bully my caste. I had lots of trauma — I was the only one at the school who was untouchable. I didn’t sit inside the classroom. I had to sit outside the window. I was very sad and had suicidal feelings.
How were you able to overcome the pain of being an untouchable?
One day a school inspector from London came to visit and his wife came with him. She was a beautiful white, white-haired woman, must have been 70. She gave me flowers. And she touched me — nobody had ever touched me. And she said “I am like you, I am an outcast. I am untouchable too.’ I was paralyzed but overjoyed. She gave me garments and I went home and my mother said where did you get those clothes? I was a little boy. I was about 7 years old. I said, ‘Mother I am in love. A woman gave me these clothes.”
It was the beginning, and changed the whole concept of life for me. When I told my mother she told me that my fate will be to marry a white woman from a foreign land. And that was my prophecy.
How did you find love?
My wife drove from Sweden in a car. She just got her license. India was a popular place for hippies to come for a spiritual and love experience. I was making sketches in the city square. She had me draw her three portraits in three days and she paid me double, 20 rupees each time. She had long blond hair, she was so beautiful, like an angel. One evening, I remember it, Dec. 17, 1975, I was drawing her. I felt weightlessness. I told her ‘it was decided in heaven that we were going to meet. I can’t change it, you are going to be my wife.’ She was shocked. But she followed me. I took her to meet my family, in the jungle. There was a festival and people were dancing, people were throwing rice and flowers. She was given a handmade sari — and we got married.
Then she went back to Sweden. One and a half years passed. We were writing each other constantly. And then when I finished my study at art school, and when my longing became too much, I sold everything and bought a bicycle.
Why did you think you could get from India to Sweden on a bicycle?
All I knew was that she drove for 22 days. Ignorance is the best thing I had. I didn’t know how far it was. If I had known I would have not dared to leave India, and would have preferred to live below dogs and cows. I am very thankful for my ignorance. I didn't only ride my bike. I got a flat tire, and the bike would break, and I couldn't even sit on a toilet because I was so sore. So I would hitchhike too. The trip took me four months and three weeks. And I am here now, in the middle of a forest in Sweden with my wife. She is my leader. And it is perfect.
What can you teach Americans about your journey?
People must believe it is possible, and have faith in themselves. Politics divide you,but love is uniting. Love conquers.