I am Praveen Venkiteswara Annu, from God’s Own Country, Kerala in India.
Although I am a mechanical engineer by qualification, I switched streams after studies and picked up software development. I work as a Software Architect in a multi-national company and live in Trivandrum, Kerala with my wife and 3 year-old daughter.
I enjoy travelling, photography and spending time with my family. My daughter loves the beach and the outdoors in general and that is where we normally spend our weekends.
Having been a sportsperson in my school days, I follow cricket closely and I am interested in basketball, volleyball, tennis and soccer. I have tried my hand at various sports whenever I had the opportunity.
I never thought I would become a published author until I returned from a trip to Ladakh, a high altitude cold desert in the Indian Himalayas. I had an encounter with Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and had to return halfway through the trip. I decided to jot down my experiences. Once I was done, I shared it with my friends to get some feedback and the feedback was positive. It was then that I decided that it was probably a good idea to try my hand at self-publishing.
I thought it would be a good idea to include some pictures that I had clicked during the journey, in the book. So, after completing a couple of drafts, editing and formatting, I was ready to self-publish. I also designed the cover art myself, with some help from the Amazon Cover Designer, of course. Do let me know what you think about it.
Thus, my first book “Himalayas: Through Heaven and Hell in the Hills” was published. I also put together a collection of photographs from the trip in a picture book titled “Ladakh in Pictures”.
Ladakh: A Magical Land
I found the inspiration to travel to Ladakh after reading a post by Tanveer Singh. I found the answers I was looking for and many more during this trip that will remain etched in my memory for the rest of my life.
Ladakh has something on offer for everyone. People come here seeking solitude and peace, to be with nature and nature alone, experience adventure like never before, see landscapes and surreal lakes that cannot be seen anywhere else on the planet and sometimes merely to find themselves.
My objective was to see places that I had only seen in photographs, but, had captivated me by their sheer beauty. I also wanted to experience one of the most challenging road trips that can be done in India; from Manali to Leh. All of 479 kilometers, accessible only for around four months a year with five mountain passes and gaining an altitude of more than 10,000 feet along the way.
Did I meet my objectives? Yes and no. Yes, I did complete the road trip from Manali to Leh. But, no, because I could not explore most of the places I had hoped to visit. In fact, I had to limit my trip to the Buddhist monasteries around Leh, Shanti Stupa, the confluence of the Indus and the Zanskar rivers and a visit to the local market. But, I did get a chance to experience solitude, peace and calm on the banks of the Indus and to find myself.
I could not visit any of my dream destinations – the Pangong lake, the Tso Moriri lake, the Nubra valley and the Zanskar valley. Why? Because I had not bothered to keep myself properly hydrated and had probably climbed too fast to allow my body to adjust to the altitude. The result – I was his by Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). My friends, thankfully, did not have problems and were able to continue the trip and visit the Pangong lake and Nubra valley.
I had a near death experience after an encounter with Acute Mountain Sickness that forced me to return home halfway through the trip. I still want to go back and explore the sights and experiences that I was denied on this trip. That is the magic of Ladakh. It pulls you towards it and never lets you go. As the Eagles put it “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave”, but, in a good way! This explains why people throng to Ladakh from all parts of the world, especially during the summer!
I would encourage you to experience Ladakh once and you will never have enough of it!
Himalayas: Through Heaven and Hell in the Hills
The book is a photolog (photographs and travelogue) of a trip along one of the most dangerous, but, also one of the most scenic highways in India, from Manali to Leh.
It recounts the various events that unfold during the 5 day trip from my perspective; the sights, sounds and challenges that I encountered as my friends and I embarked on an epic road trip in the Himalayas.
The book takes the readers through the various facets involved in planning and executing a trip to Ladakh. The narrative covers the sights along the Delhi – Manali highway and then along the Manali – Leh highway (Manali – Rohtang – Keylong – Jispa – Sarchu – Pang – Upshi – Karu – Leh). It also covers some of the tourist spots in and around Leh.
The challenges experienced during a trip at such high altitudes, including Acute Mountain Sickness and unpredictable road conditions, add to the storyline.
It includes photographs taken during the trip, featuring some beautiful landscapes.
It is a short read, maybe an hour and a half, at most and is available on Kindle Unlimited.
It was September 2013. I got a phone call from my friend who is a Major in the Indian Army. He had been transferred from Pathankot to Leh. For the sake of confidentiality, I cannot use his real name. So, I will call him Abhay; Major Abhay.
Leh is the capital of Ladakh district in India’s northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir. Ladakh: The land of passes; a high altitude cold desert in the rain shadow region of Himalayas that is home to some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet.
The first thing that came to my mind was “What a lucky guy to be able to work in such exotic locations!” Once Abhay was in Leh, I casually enquired whether he would host me if I were to tour Ladakh and he immediately agreed. I knew this was not a trip that I could do with my family, considering my daughter was just 2 years old. So, I called up few of my friends from college who were also my roommates during my college days. Gopu and Hari jumped right in while a couple of others were not entirely amused at the plan.
One thing led to another and before we knew it, we had arrived at a plan for our Ladakh “pilgrimage”. We decided to skip the peak tourist season (July-August) to avoid the crowds and also the early season (May – June) to avoid the bad roads and numerous water crossings caused by the melting snow. So, September 2014 was picked and we decided to do a Delhi – Srinagar – Kargil – Leh – Manali – Delhi round trip in two weeks. It took us eight months to read through numerous blogs and research various car rental options in Delhi before arriving at the final itinerary.
Though this was my first attempt at publishing a book, I had started writing about my experiences of travelling in Europe, while working in the United Kingdom. That was never completed. Now that I have discovered the art of self-publishing, I hope to pick up from where I left off, complete the book and publish it later this year.
I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to reach out to me.
Links to the book