5th Anniversary CTzen Autobiography Blog - Part 2
In my previous blog, I wrote mostly about my childhood and what all surrounding factors had influenced me to take deep interest and passion in automotive culture and pick my career even though I was only 13 at the time, I stuck with it despite the criticism I received from my friends and other family members.
In this blog, I’ll continue where I left and carry on with my life experiences, interactions with people that lead to the consequences and the scars that left in my memory… and shaped me to be the person that I am mostly today.
Moving into upper primary education, my parents had started to put pressure on me with my studies. Even though at this stage, I was still saving up and buying games, performing well in my academics and buying car magazines, it didn’t stop me from focusing on my future career which was designing and engineering automotive. I started out gently by drawing mostly cars I’d imagine and from my little die-cast car collection. At the time I had a Ferrari F50 Spyder and a Hummer H2 SUT die-cast models and a lot of LEGOs. Every time I got good grades, I would ask dad to buy me LEGOs as I loved to jumble all sets up and create something new… let my imagination go wild and create anything from what I’ve seen to whatever I could build using whatever I had at my disposal.
By mid 2006, we were well settled in our new house and me, my sister and brother were continuing on with our education. Every weekend i.e on Thursday (at the time Thursday and Friday were considered weekends) we’d go to the beach and take a walk. I would get my R/C controlled BMW X5 and drive around on the beach as we walk along. It had more than enough charge for a good 2 kms. I never got bored with it despite the influx of technology around me such as the laptops, mobile phones and various platforms of gaming consoles.
In that same year during summer vacation, we went back to Hyderabad and stayed at our grandparents apartment which dad had bought for him way back in 1990 with the successful wage pay he had in Saudi Arabia. Sadly, back in 2004, my grandmother passed away of old age and natural causes so we only had grandfather to look forward to. When over there, our dad’s brothers and our cousins had also turned up to stay at his place as well this time and the whole of dad’s family was reunited. One of the movies that was released at the same time was Disney’s Cars, a movie that even my grandfather enjoyed watching. One of my younger cousin brother became a bit obsessed with the movie and would imitate the pit stop scene even in his sleep which was one of the most hilarious things I had seen someone do.
Towards the end of 2006, EA unveiled their latest arcade racer, Need For Speed: Carbon that I got it early this time around. With the E46 M3 GTR no longer the main protagonist’s car, it was the Audi Le Mans Quattro Concept belonging to the antagonist that was the star car in the game that caught my eye. This is because around the same time of the year, Audi unveiled it’s first halo supercar - the Audi R8 which I had first seen and read about it in the Auto Trader UAE magazine. I remember seeing it and was completely fan-boying over it. The similarities of the Audi Le Mans Concept and the production version of the R8 were so similar that telling them apart from other than the wheels and the headlights was like finding differences between identical twins. And it was this reason that a production car that looked every inch close to the concept car made me as a kid feel trusted to the brand and fell in love with the car. Otherwise, the concept car would look like an exaggerated futuristic car while the production version would look toned down and dulled like many other car makers were still doing at the time.
A few months later, the Need For Speed: Carbon Collector’s Edition was released which came with some additional cars, liveries, tracks and challenges. It was also in this very game, I discovered a new car manufacturer by the name of Koenigsegg with it’s CCX*. While the car was known to be fast, but it wasn’t quite as fast in the game but that was because of the frame rate and hardware restrictions. Even still it was an amazing car to drive and look at. Little did I know how much of an amazing brand this car maker would turn out to be.
While heading over to the beach, we’d pass through the posh area of Corniche. An area situated just a few blocks away from the King’s palace which was situated on the sea side built as an private island. Surrounding this palace was a essentially an area filled with really wealthy people living in mansions. And of course, this area was a common sight to see all sorts of luxury cars, sports cars, supercars and hypercars.
I always insisted dad to go the Corniche through the central business area as that area was always sprawling with supercars, performance and luxury cars that I loved to sight see as we go to the beach. There were a lot of supercar and supercar dealers spread across that area. And every week we go past them, there would potentially be a new car in the showrooms to see all the time. Meaning I never got bored of sight seeing supercars and luxury sedans in that area. There were the lot - Aston Martin, Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche, Mercedes-AMG, Maybach, BMW Ms, Audi RS, Camaro, Corvette, Mustang, Saleen, Nismo, GT-R, Supra, Lancer Evo. Almost every known supercar and luxury marques known to the world at the time was seen in the city.
Going back to 2005 again, we bought a tiny black and green screen Nokia 1110 which became my first phone ever. It had just the essential features like calling, messaging and texting. Although a bit useless, it still had the infamous Snake game on it which was something I could accompany myself with from time to time. Meanwhile dad upgraded from his 3650 to the Nokia 6681. Which around this stage, the phones were starting to become more simple in design but excelling in functionality. One of it’s predominant features was the 3G connectivity which the country still didn’t offer any services for it. So instead, the internet had to be browsed through GSM connectivity only.
The next year, dad got me and my sister the Nokia N73 from Nokia’s N series line up which usually comprised of phones focused on entertainment. This was me and my sister’s first ever colour screen phone. While it was bulky and heavy, it was very fun and one of the first phones with two large stereo speakers. A feature that I had never seen again in any phone ever again.
However, it’s 3.2 MP back camera was enough to take some decent photos with which I enjoyed taking pictures of supercars on the streets whenever going to the Corniche beach, anywhere high end location or even just around my block and ultimately became my hobby. I never looked back from this hobby and I still take photos of anything automotive related - from my toys, to accessories, to the real thing in the malls, dealer showroom and on the streets or even if were to be in front of my house.
Back then I thought to myself that all these photos that I'm taking will serve as a good example for when I am looking forward to rebuild something out of LEGOs or that some of these toys and cars might get lost or not seen again which was a common occurrence particularly with some of my LEGOs brick pieces. Or I could brag to my friends about what car I've spotted back then.
Fighting Depression Unknowingly:
2007 saw me in my final year of lower secondary education classes as I was set to appear for the board exam the following year. Considered to be one of the hardest and stressful exams by secondary education standards and by Indian education standards for the grades of students, it focused on theory and practical knowledge individually. I was fortunate enough to be in a school that provided so many facilities and a quality education for the time to all the Indian immigrants who lived in the province of Jeddah city. What wasn’t so fortunate was the pressure from both teachers and my parents. This was and it still is a common practice among Indian parents to pressurize children into selecting a field right from day one and subject them to endurance of studies.
While dad did support my dreams and ambitions, what he also wanted from me was to concentrate on studies and studies only. Sports, recreational activities and entertainment associated curricular activities were discarded by my parents as non-productive academic hindering activities that could be ignored. This meant that there was a lot of pressure for me to score better than anyone else in the class as I would be compared to other students in the class performing alongside me - A typical expectation from any Asian family.
This pressure from teachers and parents to perform excellent and flawlessly in academics lead me and many others to feel depressed, ultimately filling minds with anxiety. This pressure started out way back around 2003 when I first noticed I was experiencing a different state of sadness. I didn’t quite understand it at the time but I remember feeling downed and defeated. There were a lot of other factors that created this depressed feeling. Other than the academic pressure, there was the lack of time during the day after school as I was given home chores by my parents. This had further stressed me as the sheer amount of homework I had wouldn’t be completed in time nor would I have the time for my leisure activities. Even though this was the elementary education, the pressure from parents and teachers to perform flawlessly was very high.
This pressure was carried over from elementary to secondary grade education. By this stage, the stress and the pressure had got to an emotional level. The thought of speaking to someone about my personal issues, confronting with someone also never really came to my mind as I was still unaware that I am suffering from depression. I didn’t bother to mention my suffering to anyone, not even to my brother, sister or any of my friends at the school as there was no one I could confront to about my issues with stress and pressure as I was immature to work out what I was going through or what these feeling I’m generating meant. This meant that my depression had got to me on an extreme emotional level at the time… leaving me with no choice other than to fight it with self-esteem, courage, determination and hope.
By 2006, I had seen and witnessed my father's rage when he'd found out about the pace of our studies especially if they were a week away from monthly exams or a month or two away from mid-term exams. From screaming his throat off at me, destroying our toys, disabling the computer, the gaming consoles to even physically abusing us by flexing particularly on me in the fit of rage, he'd take many irrational actions in the pursuit of forcing us to study day and night even when tutoring me.
This emotional roller coaster of consistent blames, pressure and stress saw me going from physically abusing myself to even taking suicide attempts. Even though I came really close to committing suicide multiple (around 25) times, I gave up as I didn't find the strength to actually do it as my will power to fulfill my automotive dreams overcame them time and time again.
To escape this hell hole, I took refuge by closing the world off around me by drawing cars, come up with unique builds, technical ideas at the back of my school note books all while listening to the music from the video games (particularly Need For Speed) or some of the ones my sister discovered on the internet with one of them being Linkin Park, a band that I went on associating myself a lot in the future.
Up and until this point in my school life, most of the friends I made in the class had broken away from me or many found me annoying with my interest in cars. The only few ones that stuck with me had a bit of interest in cars. But as I went from grade to grade, many of my class colleagues and class friends I made were segregated into other classes. Combine this with a hectic education schedule meant that I didn’t have time to get to know them a lot and our friendships were killed off. This was because as the grades went up, the classrooms shrunk in number and so did the number of students as many would return to India to continue their studies there to avoid any financial burden. For instance, when I joined 2nd grade in 1999, there were ten classrooms and there were 99 students in my class alone! but as I went up to 10th grade, they were down to just 7 with around just 60 students in my classroom. The reason for dividing students was because the school had a discrimination and a segregation policy to divide students into different classes based on their performance from the final exam results. Although I was reunited with some of them in my later grades, others eventually left to another class as we went up the grades.
Throughout my school life at IISJ (International Indian School - Jeddah), I remained an introvert due to the abusive nature from some of my class colleagues, the pressure from teachers and parents to study and the enormity of the homework given going through each grade. It was rather pointless to point out the offending bully as any action or punishment to be taken from the higher school authorities would've been against both the victim and the bully making justice unfair and biased.
My participation and performance in sports has also been rather non-existence. Again due to the heavy pressure to perform well in academics, I never really have had a healthy or active lifestyle to take part in sports. Again, just like the academics, we were divided into one of four ‘houses’ each represented with a colour (Red, Blue, Green and Yellow) with me being asked to represent the ‘Green House’. Back in 3rd grade I was forcefully signed up for a 400 meter sprint in the upcoming sports day event without my acknowledgement or consent. I wasn’t even aware of the upcoming sports day as I was so caught up with keeping my note books complete and preparing for the tests all the way up until the sports day. We were given training a month before the sports day but I decided to skip a few of them particularly near the big event as I had a lot of work to catch up to. The worst part of taking part in sports was that we weren’t even given any leave for training sessions either. Which meant that if we skipped any classes, we would be held accountable for bunking classes as some teachers conducting classes during our training session never acknowledged our participation in sports. It all felt like there was no coordination or mutual understanding among the staff members or school authorities.
The following year when in 4th grade, the same incident repeated. I was forcefully signed up for a 200 meter sack bag race. While this time I had my cousin brother participating with me (I had several cousin brothers and sisters studying in the school at the time period with this one being a close one), I had at least enjoyed coming in for training sessions and had fared very well in it managing to beat everyone in practice runs again and again. Even though I missed several classes and ended up with incomplete note books, I was at least able to gossip with my cousin brother as I would rarely meet up with him even though he lived close to my house (Again the intensely long and time consuming school schedule was to be blamed for). He wasn’t the best mannered one or the kindest one, but he was the only one I had the opportunity to have communication with and share a bit about my passion for cars.
When teachers randomly checked our note books and asked us about why my books were incomplete, I would’ve said that I had participated in the sports day events but most of them never took ‘no’ for an answer and ultimately I was punished for not having my notes complete. Making matters worse, me trying to remember the class schedule, the tests and assignments… everything made me forget about the big sports day event both the times. The participating athletes had to wear a particular gear for representing their ‘houses’ and the sport event they were partaking in. Again, for both occasions, I didn’t have the gear for it but despite not having them, I still participated in them only to be knocked out… on both occasions again. In the 400 meter sprint, one of my shoe lace came undone as it wasn’t a sports shoe, causing me to loose my balance which meant I failed to finish the race and came in last. For the sack race, while I did have more potential to win this time, my chances were reduced massively as I was given a much smaller sack than what I had used in practice. I tripped at the start, fell over and was disqualified from the event. After both the failures, I had decided to focus on attending classes, keeping my note books complete rather than take part in more sporting events than get shouted on and punished.
The only form of physical exercise I got was cycling outside around my district in the afternoon. Me and my brother had our cycles that we'd take out around the district with our friends living in our district after coming back from school. Some of them were from different Indian schools, had different timings and schedule, but it didn't stop them from meeting us for an afternoon of cycle along and exploring the area for car spotting as there were quite a few decent cars to spot within my district. Realistically you'd needed a car to cut the journey by an hour compared to by foot, 30 minutes on bicycle just to get from one end to the other end of the district as our district area was massive. This was also a great excuse for me to get exercise whenever I, my sister or my mom wanted something from any of those shops like particular video games or street food or utensil. This was also because all the shops were adjacent to the main road and our new apartment was deep inside the district so we'd relied on our bicycles to get the job done.
While my sister also had a cycle, her days of cycling were killed off early due to the misogynistic culture and belief of my parents, the Indian society and the country's masculine dominated culture in general. While she couldn't go cycling with us since her teenage years, she was able to make it up by winning dozens of medals in the inter-school championships - An international sports day event hosted by one of the International Indian School event taking place between all the Indian Schools from all over Saudi Arabia. This made me feel very biased as I was pushed and stressed into studying, completing my homework and assignments all the time while my sister who was considered as a lesser being in our society excelled in sports, got pardoned from classes whereas I couldn't even showcase my potential or even get time for physical exercise even at a time when technology addiction was very minimal.
After the summer vacations in 2006, the peer pressure of excessive homework, project works and home chores had me grounded down and the result displayed itself on my mark sheet in my report card. Dad was very disappointed with my performance by this stage and decided to admit me to after school private tuition at first, which further robbed me of my time for school homework, leisure or rest. On the bright side, I was able to make some decent friends over there for a short while.
While the tuitions did pay off a bit, what wasn’t worth was the sleepless nights of studying particularly near the exams. Consuming energy snacks and drinks or any product associated with caffeine everyday while studying did have a really bad effect on my health and resulted in excessive tiredness and craving for food which deteriorated my health further. All this being done a year prior to appearing in the board exam the following year. What was surprising was that 30% of the students in the upper primary to higher secondary education were taking after school tuitions. This trend was being practiced since late 1980s and had even reached to other parts of world wherever there was an Indian community with Indian education institutes.
In March of 2007, I wrote my final 9th grade exams and with two weeks, the result was out and I got a rather decent score, passed well but dad wasn’t satisfied as for him anything below 70% or a ‘C’ grade was poor performance. Again the usual Asian parental logic. He stated that my performance wasn’t good enough and called in for more after school tuitions when my 10th grade started. This time, my after school tuitions went from one to four with three of those subjects taken by a single tutor. This meant I had even less time to rest and way WAY more homework, assignments, tests, projects and then the same tasks in the tuitions making my schedule hectic and irritating.
In mid-2007, the financial stock market around the world had begun crashing and created a state of panic among many organizations. While the effects were profound in the States and European countries, it was concerning in the neighboring nation like United Arab Emirates, mostly neutral in Saudi Arabia and optimistically progressive back in India. But because of my burdening school schedule, I was unaware of the stock market crash happening at the time. To get the tension and stress from studies off, I would turn to my PlayStation 2 or PC on weekends. Again, the school’s hectic schedule just made me uninterested in news or on going politics around the world as I just wanted to have some free time and enjoy some good moments in my life.
Come 2008, I was completely burned out from overloaded stress of studying so much to the point that it had taken a poll on my memory as well. And on top of that, I was set to appear in the final lower secondary education board exam. This exam was conducted around March 2008 and the student’s performance result would be the deciding factor on what high school stream he/she would be applicable for. The High School or ‘Upper Secondary’ education was divided into three streams namely - Science or Medicine, Commerce and Humanities… in that hierarchical order. Science or Medicine was given the most priority and was considered as a dignified and the highest tiered field of education with a potential for high paying wages, while Humanities was given the least priority and was considered as a disgraceful or a mediocre stream to study in and wouldn’t have any benefits even though this stream was open for anyone to join into.
Since 6th grade, I've been constantly bullied and tortured by my classmates. This didn't help me as I had been an introvert throughout my school life. While I did complain to my parents many times who in turn reported to the management, it didn't make much difference as violence resorted back. Near the end of 10th grade, just a few weeks before the board exam, I had lost all my composure and went insane - I had my prized watch (A solar powered Citizen Eco-Drive) which broke after attempting to retrieve my cap which was dropped from the 1st floor of my classroom hallway on the inner playground by one of my "class friends" during the end of recess. Angered by annoyance from them but fearing on missing out the mathematics class as our teacher was stubborn to allow anyone in the class once he enters the class, I sprinted down towards the inner playground, only to slip down on entering the inner playground steps and falling on my left arm. The stainless steel band and the pin holding on the chassis broke open upon impact with the ground.
I quickly picked my watch, it's pieces along with my cap in the midst of other students running around in it and returned to the classroom in time. Raged by the damage caused and the years of bullying with no response from the management, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I reached for my bag and pulled out an aluminum scale and out of sheer rage, I hit him on his forehead a few times until he felt dizzy. My case was reported to the principal and I was indefinitely expelled from school. A week later my dad talked with the principal about the situation was finally allowed to attend the remaining few days of school. The take away from the incident was despite the repeated appeal to the management for years, they've failed to take action against any bullies and instead made the introvert victims as the oppressors.
When the results came out, I checked online and found my score was rather above average (74.7% if my memory serves me right). I had thought to myself that this would be enough for me to get into the science stream. I was rather pleased with my performance and so were my parents but little did we know how high the bar was to get into the science stream. A few days later after the result declaration, there was a student’s counseling held at our school’s auditorium. Me and my parents went me to the school with the report card to find my stream allocation. In there, a few teachers were allocating every student to the streams they were suitable for based on the performance in every subject from the report card. When my roll number was called out, I approached the teacher, handed over my report card and based on the analysis, the teacher had decided that my qualifications were fit for humanities course. I was honestly loss for words and speechless what to say after all the brain grinding sessions I had been through all year long and scoring a C grade just wasn’t enough by their standards. My mind was filled with disappointment, rage and anger after the madness I had to go through, but then again so were my parents confused as well.
After the post exam holidays ended, I decided to attend introductory ‘Humanities stream’ classes. But by this stage, nor me or my parents were convinced that what I wanted from life to be a ‘mechanical engineer’ would be possible through this stream or that it was what I or they wanted the outcome to be which they were aiming for. After a few days, my results were revisited and after some discussions, my performance were deemed to be better than expected and was ‘moved up’ into the ‘Commerce stream’. Within almost a week, the ‘Commerce stream’ classes had moved rather quickly and were closing the first chapter when I was moved in the stream. On the weekend, my parents decided to look around in other schools for me to get into ‘Science Stream’. Luckily, there was a new school that started offering ‘Science, Medicine and Commerce streams’ by the name of Al-Falah International School DPS (Delhi Public School) Jeddah and was open for admissions without any performance merits.
We consulted with the headmaster and the principal asking them about the recruited teachers and the quality of the teaching standards. Their first impression stated that they were very confident with getting some new teachers with little or no experience while few were others were old ex-IISJ teachers and had lots of experience. This had impressed my parents but not me entirely. The school was located in an old press printing office building just off adjacent to the block where the IISJ building was in. The classrooms were made with gypsum partition walls with several doorways shut closed as some of these doorways lead to the adjacent building with a large ground which the school management didn’t buy. While the IISJ had well over 100 buses to ferry both boys and girls from their sections from all over Jeddah and the holy city of Makkah, Al-Falah in comparison had just around 30 buses and were restricted to just the Jeddah city. The biology and chemistry laboratories were old storage rooms outside the building while the physics laboratory was rather non-existent. The school however did emphasis on building a large computer lab with up to date hardware systems and a very highly qualified teacher unlike at IISJ at the time where most of the computer hardware was still ancient and no well qualified computer teachers were available to teach C and C++ programming meaning going forward the school had an edge in teaching. Overall the money invested and the services provided were clearly way lower than what IISJ did but then again the school was way smaller and had way fewer branches than IISJ did. The school was due to start in a few days time and I had to take a decision - Study Commerce at IISJ or continue chasing my dreams ahead in Al-Falah DPS. While returning home after a family weekend trip, I had decided that the cars I had envisioned were more valuable to just be on a piece of paper. And so, I made up my mind and decided to change schools to pursue my dreams.
While the decision I made was hard to swallow, the truth remained that the discriminatory practices in the Indian education system needed much ailment and sophistication to mature up. There was very little awareness to achieve success among the Indian community at the time and the amount of options available still remain very limited.
While the studies were a burden to be wrote learned and the never ending homework always falling upon me, I did always found an escape to entertain myself namely through media, video games and books as well. Around this stage of High School, I was told that I can take the studies easy but as usual, it wasn’t as I had hoped it would turn out to be and the study pressure had returned on me just a few days into the school.
Around in 2007, the world was starting to experience a financial crisis. The effects weren’t exactly seen in Saudi Arabia or even back in India, but people augmented their claims about the market share falls. While I didn’t understand much about the recession at the time, I honestly couldn’t care less as I just needed an escape from the pressurized studies. Around the same point in time, I saw some inspiration I could draw with on my future. I remember being asked by our teachers what we career we wanted to opt for in the future. Many of us stated Engineering simply because we were blindly told that there are just few jobs namely engineering, doctoring and accounting. While many were still not sure of their choice of career, I remained adamant with mine of being an automotive designer and engineer. I recalled the 2004 movie starring Will Smith, i,Robot where the future is dominated by robots, self driving cars and megacorporations. This movie served me as a reminder that perhaps what I’ve seen could eventually become a reality in the future where most of the society might live under the poverty line and there won’t be any jobs to work in at as most of them would’ve been taken over by robots and Artificial Intelligence. Perhaps the best reason for me watch it was the car in it - the Audi RSQ whose body language was used to showcase the Audi Le Mans Quattro and then four years later for the production of the Audi R8 supercar. That link of trending down the design for the production of the car not only gave me a Déjà vu moment, but it was an instant like at the first sight.
Another hobby from my childhood I had retained was my love for comics. Particularly The Adventures of Tintin. The reason being was again, the cars in it. They weren’t fictional but rather the real ones from the time period they were based on and hence triggered my interest in them. This started way back in early 2000 and continued throughout my childhood and still remains in me even today so much that I nearly read and collected all the books.
Another great movie staring a lot of cars was Transformers by Stephen Spielberg featuring loads of cars and explosion was any teenagers must watch movie at the time. The new gen Camaro with it’s new aggressive styling and macho appearance made it’s debut in the movie for the first time and won fans including me. It suddenly made Chevrolet a cool brand to look up to with the car set to release the following year.
In November 2007, EA Games unveiled their latest title - Need For Speed: ProStreet. This was a complete turn away from the traditional Need For Speed games of the past and instead featured closed street and racetrack circuits and other disciplines of racing such as Drag, Drift, Time Attack, Speed Challenge, Speed Trap Challenge and other unique challenges such as Drag Wheelie challenges and Class Grip circuit racing were all part of the racing discipline in the game. Perhaps the most thrilling events were the high speed challenges which saw the console push all the way to project 30 fps and make the high speed challenge feel realistic and daunting with the speed immersion on a slow twisting three lane highway. It was the most thrilling experience I had in a racing game and remains to be so even today. If you were efficient in winning and spending money, then you had no issues building a large collection of heavily modified cars for every race discipline in it.
But the one thing that I loved the most that made a return in it was the tuning aspect of cars. I always loved to fiddle with the suspension and aerodynamics in particular, brakes, engine timing and the gear ratios as I felt these were the most to concentrate on to get the most of the package. I would spend minutes, even possibly hours getting the suspension setup just right to get the best possible sector and lap times while have an edge over the AI opponents even in the most difficult mode which was ‘Elite’ which sat above ‘Hardest’ difficulty.
As I progressed through the game, I was able to build a decent collection of cars and had a setup for each of them. Even after finishing the game, I would continue playing it perfecting my lap times and just earning cash to buy more cars. Furthermore, I learnt to tackle with the driver assist settings in the game as well such as ABS (Anti-lock Brakes), TCS (Traction Control System) and SM (Stability Management) and the racing line. I started out with having most of them turned ‘on’ but as I grown used to the setup and style of the handling, the more I got addicted in unleashing myself more. One by one, I would turn off the assists to help me get faster sector and lap times and eventually build a big lead over the opponent AI.
The game has a severe penalty system where if you crashed your car or bumped into your opponent, your car will take damage and will cost you to repair that damage. The damage having four tiers of it namely - Cosmetic, Light, Heavy and Total. Cosmetic and light damage didn’t affected the handling and power too much and could be repaired with a small amount of cash but if the damage was heavy, that would’ve compromised the car’s handling and power then you’d either had to spend a lot of money or use in-game “insurance card” called ‘Insurance marker’ to repair your car for free. Total damage usually means a very hard hit or completely damaging your car rendering it undriveable. This could’ve only been fixed by a ‘Total marker’. These markers had to be purchased prior to hitting the in-game race day. These challenging consequential elements is what made the game so memorable and fun to play and got me deeply interested in simulation racing.
The PlayStation 2 version of Need For Speed: ProStreet while lacked graphical advantage to the then new PlayStation 3, it still kept up with time for the size and content it offered. Both versions of the ProStreet had ample amounts of cars. One of them being another one of my favorite cars to be added to my dream car lists, the Nissan GT-R R35 PM. I saw the pictures of the GT-R Proto in the Grand Turismo 5 PlayStation 3 showcased at a Sony showroom prior to the actual car being released in the real world. While I adored the simple quad tail lights, what didn’t grew up on me was the over shape of it and it’s VQ38DETT 3.8L Twin Turbo V6 engine. But I remained optimistic about it being an affordable performance to price ratio against it’s competitors and knowing that it’ll be a tuning beast despite it’s bland, boxy appearance and it’s lack of charismatic styling.
On 26th October 2007, when the Tokyo Motor Show started, Nissan started the livestream of the unveiling of their flagship supercar. The stream started with the GT-R Pre-Production Prototype attacking the Nürburgring Nordschleife going after the Porsche 911 Turbo S lap time. At the same time, I was on the Polyphony Digital's website checking out the Grand Turismo 5 video game to buy for my 15th birthday present (My interaction with it at the Sony's showroom gave me another sim racing game with a large variety of cars my favorite must have games) and suddenly noticed the timer for the unveiling of the new GT-R which was under a virtual red cloth. There was a link to watch the livestream of the car being unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show so I decided to watch the stream and see the GT-R first hand being unveiled. After some 7:26.7 later, the car smashed the 911 Turbo S's lap time, the doors opened with the GT-R R35 being unveiled to the world with the CEO of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn driving it onto the stage. At the very same time, Polyphony Digital unveiled the GT-R R35 into the virtual world. It was purely a coincidence of watching both the events occurring at the same time as I wasn't too aware of the new GT-R being unveiled but I was lucky enough to watch one of my favorite car unveil at the same time both in the real and the virtual world.
It was around this time in 2008, there was a popular Middle-Eastern channel broadcaster by the name of mbc, who launched a channel dedicated to Hollywood blockbuster movies and TV shows by the name of mbc ACTION. And it was on this very channel that I got to see the latest Top Gear episodes again along with other pop culture from the past that I fell in love with such as David Hasselhoff’s K.I.T.T, Viper a car show staring a 1996 Dodge Viper R/T10 and Dukes of Hazards, where my love for classic American Muscle cars was found again and my awareness of the car culture. There was another channel by the name Gear One from UAE that started out broadcasting automotive news of the country and auto industry, car commercials of concept and production cars which were mostly what they started playing out that I somewhat enjoyed and highlights of some of the events that took place in the country and around the world such as Formula 1, NASCAR, IndyCar, Desert hill climbs, World Rally Championship etc. These two channels became my go to channels for watching automotive related content for my daily feed of automotive information other than magazines and internet.
And as always in November, I always look forward to EA’s Need For Speed’s latest release. This time it was Need For Speed: Undercover. This was a slightly different game with live action cut scenes and big names from the Hollywood industry such as Maggie Q. However it was also EA’s last Need For Speed release for PlayStation 2 platform as the company looked forward to releasing it on PlayStation 3 only. Little I had known about it and while I didn’t mind too much at the time, I still thought that PlayStation 2 release would still make it through the following year as well. For that platform, some portions of the map were ported and a reskin of Need For Speed Most Wanted 2005. The story was slightly different and featured fewer cars than what the PlayStation 3/PC version featured.
The overall experience and gameplay was also lack lustering. You drove the car to a mission point and selected a race. You participate and win it and then somewhere else the clues and details are obtained without any of your involvement. The story felt rather disconnected from what you were doing vs where the story was going. It was confusing until the end but it still remained a rather disconnected and diluted experience. Nonetheless, I enjoyed playing it as much as any Need For Speed franchise. What was disappointing was the sheer lack of cars and customization in them. The cars were once again from the Need For Speed ProStreet, Carbon and Most Wanted and while some minor new additions, some of them immediately joined on my favorite list such as the returning Koenigsegg CCX from Need For Speed Carbon and the Pagani Zonda F which was featured in the Need For Speed Carbon Collector’s Edition but only for PC which I couldn’t buy because of my aging PC and laptop. The only other time I heard about a Pagani Zonda was in the Auto Trader UAE magazine where a craiglist ad for a 2002 Pagani Zonda C12S was mentioned. The car was described as being “faster than a Ferrari and Lamborghini”. But for me the styling didn’t exactly catch on back then and looked like a garage built kit car and I ended up dismissing the car to be anything special at the time not realizing that someday it would be on my list for the most favorite and desirable cars.
High School Mess:
A few days after the admission, a privately operated school van that my father got in touch with turned up at my home at 7:30 am and dropped me off at school way earlier than most other students had turned up. Once inside the school, I was introduced to my class through one of the juniors and my class teacher in charge. The first day I arrived, I was as usual very early to the class as my apartment was rather close to both the schools which meant the route for the buses to pick up students from homes was relatively short as well. After a short while wait, our teacher introduced himself to me alone in the class and left to the staff room. Then slowly, one by one, all the students started showing up. Some where old students from the school itself while … and eventually some familiar faces from my class and the ones next to my classroom from IISJ. Suddenly, my loneliness and isolation was faded away as I had some familiar faces from my and other classes at IISJ to interact with and at the same time, get to know the new students and the students who were already part of the Al-Falah DPS school from the start.
A few days into the school, I began to share my passion for cars and it seemed to have a much less negative effect. Here I was slightly more welcomed as I found myself a place to speak and share my knowledge and passion about cars… only trouble being that not many were fond of my passion for cars and couldn’t be bothered to hear about it and found me to be a weirdo for talking so much about cars. This meant I became the center for all taunts and teases given my immense knowledge about cars. This was further worsened with me acting extrovert for the first time, which didn’t help matters a lot**.
Once in high school, I was told by my parents and my elder cousins (who were deep nerds) that everything would be easier from there on but like a broken link in the chain, there was a massive miscommunication and misunderstanding between the people who couldn’t care less about what they studied and the people looking forward to studying in them. There was way more homework and the poor teaching staff once again forced me to take up tuitions. Making matters even more worse, I was introduced to ‘Computer Science C & C++’ subject without learning any basics of it at all and our English class was held as a collaboration with both Science and Commerce classes together. This wasn’t helped with my now distracted brain that was worn out from all those years of constantly studying day and night. And this was displayed in the mid-term semester exams again with how poorly I had scored. Once again, my parents were disappointed with my performance but I had decided to be realistic about my results and expect lower than what I could score. At this stage I just wasn’t bothered anymore about studying with all the pressure and stress that was being put on me. I gave up having any expectations of achieving any decent numbers on my score sheet and wanted freedom from all this menace. Again, this was all amplified with the so-called-friends I made at school here many of whom were overconfident in their knowledge and know-how to get through the semester.
Despite my poor performance, I still managed to score well in the mid-semester exams and convinced my parents that I’m still capable of scoring well. This meant that I finally got an upgrade from my badly aged IBM Thinkpad T20 series to an LG RD410 Notebook. It was a very simple laptop with simple functionalities and a cheap built quality. What’s more, it only came with MS-DOS as it’s operating system… no Windows XP or Vista on it and had a very small storage drive (I think it was a bout 320GB) and featured an Intel Core 2 Duo processor with just two cores in it and just 4 GB of RAM. It clearly couldn’t handle any modern games, programmes or applications on it and was just a tad faster than my IBM Thinkpad T20 series brick. I did send it off to my dad’s friend who was an IT specialist to have Windows Vista installed on it. The Thinkpad was a badly managed and misused laptop where I had downloaded thousands of wallpapers (pro and amateur) of Kenworth trucks, The Fast and The Furious franchise, Nissan Skyline GT-Rs, Need For Speed and various other generic photos and set them as my transitioning wallpapers from Webshots website. This was at a point and time when I didn’t had any games to play on my PC and I had a dial-up modem connection. And obviously I didn’t know anything about PC or laptops back then and I simply pressed download button on every single photo that I assumed look good as a wallpaper until the storage memory was full and I assumed that the laptop got slow because it got old when in reality, all it’s storage drives were full with wallpapers only. Those mistakes I avoided on my new laptop.
At the same the old Nokia N73 finally gave up so we upgraded from that to a Nokia N79. It was a phone with features I rarely got to see in other phone manufacturers such as FM transmitter and FM receiver, the ability to change screen theme to the color of the battery cover and navigate using the “NaviWheel” which I only ever saw in a BlackBerry smartphone. But unfortunately, this phone was given to my sister to be used at home although I still had the permission to use it, mom and sister were using it to make calls and listen to music on it and that meant I needed my own phone as well.
Around at the time in 2008, when I got my laptop, a catastrophe that shook the entire world after the collapse of Lehman Brothers that further enhanced uncertainty of the economical situation due to the poorly managed housing and real estate loans, poorly managed finances, firms taking too many risks and excessive borrowing which all lead to the economic recession crisis. The effects weren’t too visible in Saudi Arabia and India but elsewhere in the world, there was massive lay offs and bankruptcy being declared by several business organizations including Pontiac and Saturn, both of whom in the midst of administration under GM were later canned off. This meant that those cars were no longer seen around in the country anymore. Back in India, Subaru was planning on entering India, but because it was under Chevrolet’s management, it failed miserably to sell their rebadged Forester and the financial rescission simply made matters worse. Hence, Subaru exited the market due to poor PR and management from Chevrolet. It was a brand I was considering looking upto after seeing Subaru appear in almost every single Need For Speed game ever made till now.
By this stage in school, I had met a classmate, got familiar and made close friends with him (will be referring him as just ‘close friend’) who was in the school since it started as I learned that he lived just across the street in front of my house making it convenient for me to meet up, complete my notes by borrowing from him or just discuss and plan ideas and events. He appeared to be a rather decent person with awareness and knowledge about cars, technology and pop culture. Another reason why I found him to be “cool” was because he he’d drive his father’s 3rd generation Mercury Grand Marquis illegally on the streets and use it for commuting or just joyride around the block**.
Thanks to him and my other classmates, I got introduced to social media for the first time with Facebook having just been launched at the time. My first interactions with it at first made it seem like a good place to connect with friends, family and colleagues… say ‘Hi!, Hello! and Goodbye!’. So clearly, I didn’t care too much about it at the time. Around at the same time, I had saved a whole heap of money from the left over cash accumulated over the years that mom or dad used to give me for buying stuff from the shops near our house. Obviously, some of the cash went into buying PlayStation 2 games and accessories, others on street food sometimes and on toys. However, after meeting up with this so called “friend” from DPS school, I had gained some confidence to speak up and explore the city with him. After getting to know him more closely, I started to hang out with him, buy stuff for myself and for him too. It all went well but slowly all of my classmates and colleagues affiliation with knowledge about technology made me intrigued in it as well. Their knowledge and my nativity with so much accumulated money meant that I got greedy with my money and slowly developed a desire to have the latest gadgets and tech.
I looked around and realised that “my Nokia N79” had restricted mobility because of my sister and mother using it at home. This meant I had to make do stuff and buy my own phone as my father wanted me to concentrate on studies more. I looked around on the market and found out about the then then new Nokia N96 which was one of the higher end mobile phones on the market. It was a dual-way slider profile and had the biggest screen on a phone for the time. What’s more, it had media controls on the other end of the slider for entertainment which is what the ‘N-series’ line up of Nokia phones were marketed as. Compared to it’s predecessor, the Nokia N95, it was a commercial disaster as it offered less features for the price and was relatively expensive. I didn’t care too much about it at the time as my inner teenage testosterone filled brain and my friend tempted me to get the latest technology to keep up with the “cool fad”. I had a talk about the phone with my close friend and he said he would get one soon enough and sure enough just after a few of launching, he bought one and showed it to me. I was really impressed with it’s features and size even though we were completely unaware how badly it performed in the market. Being impressed by just it’s features, I decided on buying one for myself as well. I handed him some of my savings and sure enough after a few days, he surprised me by showing me my very own and first ever “earned” mobile phone.
However, as I got to know them more, it became clear that almost all of them weren’t taking studies at school seriously and/or were taking tuitions somewhere else and at many a times were skipping school. While I did plan on skipping school for a day or two, that never worked because the Al-Falah school started earlier than IISJ boys or girl’s section did and that meant I had to leave before dad did. Back when I was in IISJ, dad would leave around the same time as my bus arrival time. Which meant I could take a day or two off school and focus on my studies particularly near the exams. While skipping school worked during my days at IISJ, my dad’s idea of being able to score more had morphed into thinking that by having the highest attendance in the class would yield better result which had no correlation to the studies and exam preparations as Indian education standards go.
The obnoxious behavior from my taunting classmates and my cousin never helped me but I went on to ignore them and concentrate on my own stuff. But their deep interest and knowledge in technology and belittling me for my lack of involvement in the latest gadgets, coupled with my huge savings meant that I was tempted to spend some on acquiring the latest tech without any consent or research. That meant even though I had access to the internet, the reviews of electronic products and gadgets weren't known or looked at over much at the time.
Rental Joyride Scam Nightmare:
When I first met this “friend” who lived just across the street in front of my house, I noticed how he’d carefully drive his father’s car from home to school or just take it out all by himself around the block to get groceries or just a joyride. He explained to me that his father work’s as a top level Psychiatrist in one of the biggest hospitals in the country and has a lot of command and authority over the country’s civil services and because at the time, the traffic police forces don’t usually intervene and interfere with people who are minding their own business and/or are obeying the rules of the road. There was also a lot of corruption and laziness among the officers which helped further his cause. And that’s how he managed to get under the radar all these years apparently. The other thing that helped him was that his car had an automatic transmission which helped him greatly in driving a car from a much younger age. Even his father knew and permitted him to drive anywhere he’d like to and that’s what made me jealous that despite my deep passion and intrigued nature to know and learn about automotive but above all learning to drive a car and driving it on my own was one of the highest wishes and desires that my father held me back from. Not just because I was underage but because of his fear of uncertainly that other’s might push onto to me in a crash even though I had registered thousands of hours of racing (which was a bit irrelevant), attempting to follow rules of the road in a game, the influence I had from watching Top Gear UK with the trio’s driving mannerism on public roads and looking out for other’s mistakes on the street, all weren’t enough to convince that I can trusted with driving.
Before the summer vacation break of 2008, I had made everyone aware about my passion for cars in the class and that had lead to interesting interactions with others. For a start, there was a group of “back benchers” who’d always discuss about other mates they interacted with, organize meet ups and concentrate less on studies. These guys were the ones to get me intrigued with their talk about joyriding in rental cars while all the nerds praised them for their bravery and wanted to join in with them for fun. And through them, me and this friend of mine met up and decided to see what the big fuss is all about since he knew how to drive a car well enough and was on neutral grounds to blend with both the back benchers and the nerds. There is an exhibition event held at my ex-IISJ school every year which sees companies from India promote themselves. And because it was a social event, it is a good opportunity for these small minded adrenaline, over confidence and testosterone brimming junkies to tease and get attention from girls and hang out with their equal minded ones for a spot of ‘Shawerma kabab’, Pizza Hut or a fried chicken brand by the name of ‘Al-Baik’. While I just wanted to enjoy cruising in the car around the block with my new friends for a day or two, that didn’t seem to happen so quickly or easily.
On the day of the exhibition, me and my friend met up for one our ‘friend’ from the class who was in the adjacent class with me back in IISJ (will be mentioning him as just class friend) to get a rental car. We waited in front of my apartment building for them to turn up and after quite a while of waiting a beige coloured XV40 Toyota Camry appeared racing past us on the other side of the road divider then making a screeching U-turn they arrived at our feet. Turns out the other two of the guys with him renting out the car were my former classmates from my IISJ school who at the time were studying commerce. They had contacts with someone who already has had a job to rent out cars for joyriding. We all met up and after dropping the our class friend at his home for a “brief moment”, we head out gathering more students from other parts of the city driving recklessly and speeding on almost everywhere open road with the stereo and air conditioning at full blast (even though it wasn’t even that hot outside). Once we reached our destination, we had three more “seniors” guys occupying the rear seats with us even though every seat in the car was already occupied. We all then headed out towards the school to drop those “seniors”… now driving recklessly with an illegally overloaded car. We started out at 2 pm and by the time we reached the school, it was 5:30 pm and the day was already coming to an end. After dropping all three of them at the school, my ex classmates decided to head out and meet up with our class friend and meet up at a gaming cafe near my apartment house. Along the way, they took a small portion of the money from us for the rental car fees and told us they’ll let us drive for a few kilometers.
Just after around 6 pm, we stopped behind our apartment house and they finally gave my friend to drive the car. We drove straight towards the gaming club which was an old apartment building where mostly Indians bachelors from the state of Kerala lived together saving every penny to build their lives back in the home country. After pretty much the day coming to an end, we arrived at the gaming club and noticed a “friendly brawl” that my ex classmates told us and made us believe it to be a real gang fight. They took the wheel from my friend and dropped us back at our homes and left. Even though I had paid to drive the car a bit, I didn’t even get a chance at all to hop into the driver’s seat… not once.
My friend from my class got to know that even though I had paid, I didn’t even got to drive the car. Not one bit because the car had a manual stick and I didn’t know very well how to drive a manual vehicle at the time. So to make up for it, he sent his ex classmates who came around at my apartment a week later with a similar XV40 Camry in sky blue but with an automatic transmission and told me to pay for it and have a drive in it. I asked my parents for the rental fees and went out to drive in it. My close friend decided to follow me in his dad’s Grand Marquis to see how I manage it. My first drive even in the automatic wasn’t brilliant to begin with. I was constantly on the touching the brakes as I was driving along and bought the car to a an abrupt halt by braking hard. I drove around for an hour around my block before they took the car off my hands, dropped me at my doorstep and went away.
I got back home and informed my parents that I drove the car around the block for a while and paid the complete rent for it as well. My dad was disappointed with that and said that I got scammed on it. I didn’t think much through though as I wasn’t aware on anything how a car rental works at the time. I decided to get in contact with my class friend a few days later who told me that the car was “late and needed to be returned quickly” to which I bought what he was saying. A few months later after our mid-semester exams, we had summer holidays. It was around this time, my greed had slowly started to take over me and I really wanted to test drive a few cars for some days. I got in contact my my ex-mate and told him if he could get me a 2008 VE Chevrolet Lumina S (A rebadged Holden Commodore for Middle-Eastern market). I started out asking him for this car because during my drive in the Camry, he said it was possible to get a normal Lumina with Sports mode in it which offers more power and that the ‘S’ lacks this feature and that it would be better to get the normal variant rather than the ‘S’ as it also had an auto trans. A few days later, he came over at my doorstep in an E120 Toyota Corolla, gave me an opportunity to drive around the block in it and asked me money for the Lumina. He told me that the rent for a day would cost at least over $100 for a day which I ended up paying the entire rent for the a few days without knowing that I was being scammed. Then, after a few days, he turned up with the said Lumina in beige colour and gave me an opportunity to drive around in it for a while and before departing, he asked me to give him some money as once again he told me that the car was “overdue and needed to pay the overtime fees for it as well” to which I again unknowing handed over a few hundreds again, knowing very little that he was using that money to extend the car rental time period.
Realizing that I had spent way too much money on renting out a car, I resorted to stealing money from my dad's briefcase locker in order to regain my lost savings. Little by little I accumulated a really big amount (roughly over $5000) which I really wanted to spend it on renting out a few cars and experience them.
Throughout the summer break, I went on contacting my ex-mate and renting out couple of cars. I started out with the Chevrolet Lumina, Toyota FJ Cruiser and an L31 Nissan Altima... all which he charged me a few days worth of rent but only gave me a minutes of driving. Not only that but he'd visit around my house every now and then asking for money giving me excuses that he need to repair his phone or help his friends out so he can consistently rent out cars for me when what he really wanted was only to lease out cars for him and his own mates.
By the time summer ended I told my classmates about my experience driving all those cars and what I ended up paying for them. Everyone in my class pointed out how hard I got scammed and everyone ended up teasing me for what I spent on those cars and how much I drove. Finally in winter break, I contacted him one last time to rent me out a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and hand it over to me for a few days. The reason I went with the C63 was my influence after watching Jeremy Clarkson drive the “mad Merc” on Top Gear. I was really addicted to it’s big N/A V8 engine soundtrack and it’s diff settings that allow for an insane sideways thrilling action. I told him that would be my last car that I would be renting out and I will be concentrating on my studies for the next year onwards.
He agreed to get me the Merc and some additional fees on getting his friend some access to driving a high end car and told me that it would cost me around $1300 to rent it for a day. Being still naive and over confident, I fell for it and payed all money that I had stashed away from dad for that car. And then in early 2009 after Eid prayer holiday, I waited outside my house to get my hands on the car. And when he came about, it wasn’t even the car I asked for. Instead of the C-Class AMG, he got me an entry level W211 Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor. Because this was a family meet up holiday, dad didn’t wanted me going outside and noticed my ex-mate in the Mercedes and made claims when I told him that being rental, it was someone else’s car from service he took out of. I went outside and drove the car a bit before my dad called me back in. And by dusk, he took the car off and went away.
After the Eid holidays ended, my class got the news on how much I had paid the Merc with my close friend and my cousin both laughing and taunting me for getting scammed hard. My relationship with most of my classmates by this stage became a complete joke and I was the centre of laughing stock. Ultimately, there was another guy in my class, whom we’d refer to him as the Kerlite (because he was from the state of Kerala) decided to step in, help me out undoing all the scams he did to me and adviced me to stay away from my ex-classmate. After the dreadfully awful final exams which I got through despite flunking hard for the first time ever (school management took responsibility for their horrid way of organizing and running the school system), me and my close friend went to the commerce side and asked him if he could give out a rental car to which he immediately agreed to. We started out small by asking for a dinky E140 Toyota Corolla which he immediately agreed on to give it for a few days. Me, my close friend and my cousin contributed and within a few days got our self a dinky then brand new Toyota Corolla rental car for a few days for ourselves. Best part being that we get to keep the car for a few days to ourselves and take wherever we wanted to which is pretty much what we did. We took it out to the beach, roamed the city and enjoyed the car with my cousin brother and other friends over the course of two days. We were very pleased with my Commerce’s friend’s brother’s service.
After the exams, we had just a few holidays which we utilized it to make another plan to rent out another car. And after quite a bit of thinking, my close friend came up with idea to fulfill his experience of driving something from Chevrolet’s finest in the Middle-Eastern market - a 2006 WM Chevrolet Caprice LTZ which was the sort of car I would’ve gone for too had I known about it. We got that car from my Kerlite friend who agreed to help us get a car that we would be able to use it for our own need for a couple of days. Unfortunately, he wasn’t available at the time and he patched us through one his friends who agreed to help us get the car. Me, my cousin brother and my close friend had invited him over near our house, had a talk with him and agreed to get the Caprice. But as bad luck would strike, I went off on a pilgrimage with my family to another city for a few days. After I came back, my cousin and close friend were exaggerating about how much fun they had while I was away. The guy whom we had given money to get us the car had his phone shut down and broken all contacts with us for a few days. Then picked up after a few weeks to say that the money he had were stolen. Turned out they too were scammed by him. Realizing that we couldn’t trust him, we retracted and asked from our Kerilte friend to help us get the car directly. And sure enough, in just a few days, he had the car available to us. But with a big catch.
One of the classmates who was close to this Kerlite called me up late night and informed me about handing over the car to me. I got outside in my night pajamas and drove around the car towards the Kerlite friend home place to drop off his close associate friends and park the car near my house for the night and told us not to drive too fast as the car had very poor front brakes and nearly no handbrake. This was no ordinary car for me - It was a mid high range model with a 6.0L naturally aspirated L98 LS based V8 making around 360 bhp. This was by a long shot, the most powerful car that I had ever driven. I had parked the car near my close friend’s house and walked away with the keys. After getting home, my close friend calls me up for the keys and calls me outside to take them. I gave him the keys and went off to sleep. The next day, my friend bought the car over to the school. I told my Kerlite friend that the brake pedal goes to the floor and the handbrake has minimal impact to which he implied that the car was used for drifting by locals and ended up getting beaten up. When going back, my close friend took the car with him telling me that he’d pick me up later. So I was dropped and left out and had to go back home by the school bus. But later after I got home, we all took the car out for a spin around the city with my cousin involved again and some more friends over the course of few days. But my close friend planned to do something radical this time - a quarter mile pass to see just how much we could get the most out of the 360 bhp-ish V8 with barely any brakes to slow us down!**.
On the weekend, the first day we ran a quarter mile at noon alongside a city river bed near my house with me riding shotgun, my cousin brother in the back and the close friend at the wheel. It was an exhilarating experience reaching an indicated speed on the speedometer of 160 km/h (100 mph) and at the end of the quarter mile he had to mash down the brake pedal to bring the Caprice come to a halt on the remaining 200m of road before an intersection. The next final day before we return the Caprice back, we set off without my cousin brother to truly see what speeds it could really reach. With me and him onboard, we managed a decent 190 km/h before the "brave pills" effects wore out. The second pass with me recording the pass from the outside, my friend cracked 200 km/h (125 mph) at the end of the quarter mile. I wasn't going to take chances reaching those speeds in a car with non-existing brakes but I was thrilled that we got something ambitious done even though it was all illegal at that age.
A few weeks later, there was the usual exhibition held at my old IISJ school. So a few weeks prior to the exhibition, my Kerlite friend leased out two cars - a black 2007 LX Dodge Charger SXT and a dark blue E140 Toyota Corolla. They invited me, my close friend, my cousin brother and my other friends outside after the school and told us to join in for a joyride in the Charger with them. Here in the driver’s seat, I got to meet the person renting out these cars to my class friends - an ex-IISJ student who worked as a bus mechanic for the school along with his father and then now worked in a private workshop. After a quick joyride involving a few synchronized donuts in the dirt and a perfectly executed handbrake drift around an empty junction in an empty developing colony by my Kerlite friend in his Corolla, we return back to the school, parked up and discussed those cars - My Kerlite friend wanted to extend the rent on the Dodge Charger by giving it to someone for a day or two as part of the deal for taking the car. Unfortunately my wallet was completely empty as most of my savings went into hanging out with my friends and leasing out the Chevrolet Caprice LTZ. I denied his offer as none of us except for my cousin brother had any money on us and we went back homes in the school bus. The reason for leasing those cars was once again because of IISJ holding the usual annual exhibition for 2009. Little did I know how much all this would escalate into a nightmare for me.
A few days later, a day before the exhibition, my close friend decided on renting the Dodge Charger and convinced me to come along with him. I had saved up some cash so I decided to jump in leasing the car out and experience another American brand car. The next day, the Kerlite friend turned up with the Dodge Charger and picked me and my close friend from our house late in the evening real quick for handing over the car to us. Before that, we head back to the IISJ school as my Kerlite friend wanted to have a quick word with his ‘gang’ after they saved a kid of Pakistan nationality who was in the car with us after he was being brutally beaten up near our school. After the discussion, we headed back to my district block and parked up along with our formerly leased Chevrolet Caprice and took some photos with it. Some of them asked the Pakistani kid to take some photos with their mobile phones including my close friend to which they ended up handing over to him. After a little while, some of our ex-school graduate seniors turned up and took the Caprice out for a little round. Then we noticed that while we were just hanging out chattering with ourselves, the Pakistani kid went away near the bushes for a ‘leak’. After finishing his “business”, we noticed he was smiling back in anxiousness at us while running away. At first glace, we thought he was just being weird and playing with us as he wasn’t being too much talkative. But then he increased his running pace and started fleeing with some of our mobile phones. That’s when we noticed he wasn’t playing with us but rather stealing and running away with our belongings and some of us gave chase. Even though I tried giving chase as well, being confident that I could catch up with my level of fitness and height advantage, my aging sandals strap had snapped, nearly tripped over and fell which bought him time to make off and disappeared in the midst of the my district block area. It was the worst luck that had ever stuck to my close friend. He had made off with at least three of our phones including my close friend’s Nokia N96, which was a rather pricey phone for that time. We all gathered back up and then my friend decided to contact his dad and have his phone locked and shut down by taking to the Telecommunication service. My Kerlite friend dropped him off at his home place in the Dodge Charger while we discussed what could’ve been hadn’t they saved that Pakistani kid from the goons who where beating him up or if was even worth bringing him along with us.
These also weren't the best of times to loose valuables as the recession around the world was still going on and it was common to hear people loosing their jobs. Moments like these make me wonder sometimes if it is so much of a financial hassle for my parents to buy me some basic necessities for the sake of concentrating on my education and education only.
The day had come to an end and unfortunately. And because we had already paid for the car but my close friend and others had lost his mobile phones and had to return home, none of us had made contact for next few days which that meant that our opportunity to rent out the Dodge Charger was already up and the car was gone. Luckily, my close friend had insurance on his phone which had his phone replaced in just a few days but other two weren’t so lucky. Then a few days later, we were informed by our Kerlite friend in school that he’d be giving us another car on rent for free as we had already paid for the Dodge Charger but couldn’t get one. So for the time being, we were given an 8th gen 2008 Honda Accord for a day before getting switched the next day. Gone was the white Accord and in came a 2009 GH1 Mazda Mazda6 with a boot spoiler… again in white. Little did I know how much of a nightmare this car would turn out to be and change my life.
On the weekend of handing over the car, my Kerlite friend picked up me and my close friend up in the evening along with some of his gang members and rushed straight to the gaming club, pulled the handbrake and parked the car on the side of the road, handed over the car to us and went off with his gang members to defend his remaining gang members from a fight. From there on out, the car was in our hands. We drove around in a bit before the day ended so we all dispersed and my close friend kept the car in for the day. The next day, me and my close friend along with my cousin in the back did a speed run near the city river near my house. We got upto about 180 km/h (112 mph) before the we gave in. This was also the time, I had a go and managed to reach such speeds as the Mazda6 was in a much better state then the Caprice. We legitimately enjoyed the car a lot and had almost fell in love with the brand realizing how amazing cars Mazda makes. This enjoyment lasted at it’s zenith here unfortunately as my nightmare was about to begin.
At night, one of the edgy class nerds had turned up to drive the car with us. My close friend was at the wheel driving along in our district when my edgy nerd friend spotted a few girls on the other side of the road divider who were about to cross the road junction and he wanted to wave at them. He hastily told my close friend to get close to them so he can wave at them. After taking a U-turn, my edgy nerd friend commanded my close friend to get close enough to the curb so he could wave at them. By the time we got around, the girls had crossed the junction and as we approached the road junction, my close friend was bringing the car closer over the curb while our edgy class nerd friend was leaning out of the window ready to wave at the girls. And as we got really close enough, an sighted 2005 N16 Nissan Sunny was slowing down for the turn when we blew past by close to the curb nearly crashing into him as my edgy nerd friend fulfilled his wave at the girls. This had pissed off the Sunny driver and he started giving chase to us. Unaware of the incident, we noticed the Sunny on our rear bumper and told my close friend to floor it assuming it to be some sort of known associate of ours just giving us friendly chase. We took a U-turn and were back on the road from where my edge nerd friend had spotted those girls flooring it and pulling away from the Sunny with all five of us in it. Then coming back to the same location again, I directed my close friend to take a U-turn again. As we turned in, the Sunny driver ran into the back of our leased Mazda6 and damaged the rear bumper. After coming to a stop at the same junction again, the Sunny driver was clearly pissed as he spoke in Arabic claiming that we were driving recklessly. Fear had consumed us and in the midst of it all, we told our close friend to get us out of there.
We decided to disperse quickly and call our Kerlite friend inform him about the situation. We sprinted around within our district trying get away from the Sunny driver, who saw us running and gave chase again. Once we opened up a bit of a delta between us and him, we pulled over and quickly dispersed in the surrounding. While everyone was hiding in the bushes or behind the walls, I made a really dumb decision to sprint back to my house and call up my close friend's father. After informing him about the situation, I bought his father to the location where everyone was gathered up including the guy who leased us that car and his friend, discussing about the situation trying to resolve the minor issue with the rear bumper from the Mazda6 rental car now detached... and then there was me, informing him about what we did and what had happened from my perspective. This made all my Kerlite and his gang members very anxious and nervous on why I informed about my close friend's dad about the situation. The whole situation did not end well with my close friend's dad now being suspicious of us and our behavior in general. While his father was taking him back home with him, my Kerlite friend had a talk with us about the whole situation and how unnecessary it was.
Making matters worse, when I reached home, I realised I had lost my sister’s Nokia N79 which got worse when news reached home that I had lost my sister’s phone and my parents weren’t happy with me. I suspect that it was either I had lost it in one of the other rental cars that my class friend got it was there at the scene there or that my close friend had stolen it (more on it later). The next day in school, we learnt a class field trip to some resort was organised by our school management in the next few days. I also came to learn that day, because my close fiend was at the wheel of the rented Mazda6, he reached an agreement with the Kerlite’s friend who was renting out cars that he was liable to pay for the damage caused the other day. I was told that the rented Mazda6 was sent off to one of his workshop to be repaired, the car was kept away from the rental dealer and the rental due was building up everyday and that it would be wise of us to pay up as soon as possible. I couldn’t help him much at the time and instead sympathized and apologized for the incident. While I did get the money for the resort trip, my brain sort of dumb-played and I ended up giving the money that I got for the trip to my close friend to pay his debt off as a token of gratitude for what I did back then. He seemed cool with it and had graciously taken my money.
On the day of the resort trip, I took the decision to bail out as did my close friend to pay off the debt that was mounting on him. He was told that the sooner he’d pay up for the car, the better as it was being kept away from the dealer for repairs. After the trip ended, our Kerlite friend returned with a badly pierced foot when he tried to jump into a swimming pool which had cracked and smashed tiles on which he stepped on and needed to be hospitalized. This meant he was in no condition to drive any cars or even walk properly. So he decided to put a hiatus on his rental joyriding for a few days. In the meantime, my close friend was slowly but steadily gathering up money to pay off the debt. For me, it seemed like my days of renting out any sort of car and driving illegally were over and it was time to simply concentrate on studies instead. Little did I know that the tables were about to be turned on me… hard!.
After about a week or so after the incident, I came to school only to be informed by my close and Kerlite friend that somehow I'm now responsible for the crash and that I would have to pay the entire mounting due and the damage cost as well. I was baffled by it all that now the blame was on me without any explanation and was being pressurized by my close friend and by far the worst, my own cousin brother into arranging all the money as quickly as possible. Being naive and dumb, I started to empty all my remaining savings out of fear and handing over the cash to my close friend as he had agreed on passing it on to the guy that was renting out the cars. I repeatedly asked them again and again for an explanation and every time it was a different answer. Making matters worse, I was soon out of money and was "just a few" hundreds from paying and clearing it all up. As the due "kept building up", I was forced to take drastic measures and the only source of clearing my due was to steal money from my dad's briefcase little by little without any suspicion. As the due was once again drawing to a close, my dad had discovered the slowly diminishing savings and took out the remaining cash.
As the due kept building up, I was informed by my close friend that the guy wouldn't want to wait any longer and he would come around to my house in person and collect the remaining cash up front. As he turned up in front of my apartment door, I informed my father about the car rental blame that I received and that the guy was waiting outside to collect money from me. I watched helplessly as my father spewed questions on him about the insurance policy and agreement contract signed when renting a car out. He remained quiet and after my father finished asking him questions which he didn't answer many properly or just kept quiet on the, then left saying that I was responsible for the car because "I was at the wheel" and that he'd complain to the police for damaging the car in the first place. Things didn't improve when later my close friend told me to give my school bag to him and that he'd blackmail my dad for the remaining cash and be over with to which my father had given the remaining cash for it and was finally over. This had soured my relationship and trust with my dad further.
It turned out that my close friend was working with Kerlite's car rental guy and back stabbed me this whole time. Even making a very random appearance at my home for a combined studies session only to steal my Nokia N96 mobile phone so he could sell mine and force me to buy another one only to steal that one as well. Behind all this mess, even my cousin brother back stabbed me, pressurized and commanded me to steal money from my dad and pay up the "building" rent on that car. Turns out, even he was working with my close friend in extracting money from me. After the entire fiasco wrapped up, from that day on, my relationship with them sank hard and I wanted to avoid contact with him for the rest of the eternity... that's how soured and low he had sank betraying one of his own family members which continues even till this day on.
During the summer vacation, we took a month’s vacation back to Hyderabad and stayed at my mother’s younger brother’s house. As our teachers couldn’t teach us well enough, I was asked to take up more tuition even on my vacation which didn’t pay off as I had to be tutored at home by a university professor who was the only we could find at the time who happened to be qualified to teach me the educational course I enrolled in. Obviously, him being a professor tutored me things by university standards which meant all that was taught had either went above my head or wasn’t quite in line with my course standards. Pretty much the entire month of stay we did, we rarely went out and discovered our own city which made me a bit depressed. Then when it was time to return again, I had already erased some of the subjects I was taught by my tutor out of stress and depression. This clearly didn’t help me with my intermediate exams in my school when I returned back to Jeddah.
2009 came to an end and looking back at my past two years of high school education, it was a complete disaster all because of my own naivety and ambitious decision makings that unintentionally dragged me into this whole situation in the first place. After all this chaotic mess, dad finally decides that because I’m turning 18 in 2010, it would be convenient for me to get my driver’s license by teaching me how to drive a manual stick shift before hand I start learning the road rules and basic and compulsory maneuvers at the driving school here in Saudi Arabia.
We started on weekend Fridays early in the morning when there would be almost no or minimal traffic in the city and the district where we resided. We got over to a road behind our apartment where my dad drove up to and switched over. Here now I was at the wheel of our Nissan Terrano II. I pressed the clutch pedal in, then slot in the first gear alright, but immediately let go of the clutch pedal and the Terrano jerked forward and the engine turned off - a very novice mistake almost any person makes when learning manual transmission for the first time and I too wasn’t immune from it either. Then, on the second try I gradually released the clutch pedal and got the Terrano going with just some spurts as I was releasing the clutch. I had finally got the initiation right to a certain degree. Next I was asked to slow down for a turn which I turned on the indicator first then when slowing down for turn, I didn’t engage the clutch quick enough but changed down the gear just in time as the engine was beginning to cut out. It was a sketchy execution but I managed to it alright for a novice driver. Then as I was asked to bring it a stop again, I bought to a stop with the engine almost dying spurtingly as I didn’t engage the clutch quick enough but bought to a halt before the engine could cut with a few imperfections such as not being perfectly aligned to the footpath. After a few weekend attempts, I finally got the hang of driving a manual transmission vehicle perfectly. I learned the perfect synchronization between the clutch and the throttle in a about 3 weeks times with lane departure, U-Turns and leaving an intersection, I was confident about my driving test later in the year.
After the entire scam I had been through, I informed my dad about the entire situation and only after that did he teach me and let me drive the car for myself. Before all this, I would get in the car, turn it on, heat up the engine a bit and move the car back and forth a bit but that was it. I would've been happy driving my dad's own Terrano around the city with my friends but alas I was forced to be resorted to stealing money and lying to my parents to fulfill my desires. And by the time I managed to learn to drive the Terrano on my own, it was too late.
Moving Back To India:
By March of 2010, we all were prepared to write the final board exam and then move out of the country to pursue higher education. We had to write the pre-board final exams which unsurprisingly I didn’t clear them properly but I was nonetheless granted the right to write the final board exam. Not only were the teachers below their teaching standards, my lack of motivation to study or take after school tuitions seriously after the grindfest I’ve been through in my past had put me off studies and loose interest in them. All this resulted in a score sheet with mostly ‘D’s and ‘E’s which obviously didn’t help my image with my parents either. And still, the school management had admitted their mistakes and inconsistency and simply promoted me and several others that had failed to clear the papers in pre-board exams even though some of the staff weren’t even trained or qualified to teach either.
After the pre-board disaster, we were invited to a farewell party organised by our juniors and the school staff as it was the first high school batch to graduate from the Al-Falah DPS school so the management wanted to make us feel special despite the sketchy road they had with us. Naturally, this was once again a perfect timing for my class mates to rent out cars again and so they did. My now so-called close friend and my cousin had leased out a 2009 XV40 Lexus ES300, while another so-called friend that had joined us mid-way through our semester and became really close friends with my close friend had leased out the 2009 W212 Mercedes Benz E300 and our friend from commerce had leased the 2009 E71 BMW X6. While they avoided all forms of contact with me, some of my other friends like my former IISJ school-mate had leased out a 2009 V35 Infiniti G35 coupe and my class friend with a 2009 4th generation Mercury Grand Marquis along with another one of my class mate while another decent friend of mine had leased out a very decent 2009 NF Hyundai Sonata facelift who was the only one who was kind enough to let me drive it. Sadly, on that day, I was completely isolated from most of them and had developed a repelling sensation from most of my class mates apart from my one friend who let me drive his Sonata and my class friend.
Before the farewell, one of my former IISJ school mates who had leased out the G35 came around my house and offered me an opportunity to lease out one of my most desirable dream cars - the Audi R8. Honestly, while he stated that it was possible to get the supercar, I simply just didn't had any money on me whatsoever and after the mess I had been through, I didn't wanted to take any chances leasing out rental cars again.
A few days after the disappointing farewell party, my so-called best friend called me up, met up with me and basically jealous talked me about his Lexus and his friend’s Mercedes. It was a cringing and jealousy inducing talk that the very person that had massively scammed me with the guy that had rented out cars, take all my money and rent out the cars he and his friend wanted.
A few weeks later, I was set to appear in the final board exam. Dad decided to step in and help me by simply telling me to NOT study at all!. Throughout the year at the Al-Falah DPS school, I had horrible teachers that weren’t qualified to teach us, the stress from the education system that had put me and several others off studies and above that when I finally did get the time to study and learn on my own in these desperate times, instead I was not only forced to not study but rather just keep practicing and revising the theories and topics I can ace the best and leave out the remaining for later. Not only was this the most disastrous way to prepare for the finals, it was also by far the stupidest strategy that my father came up with. I had developed anxiety and stress out of it as dad didn’t gave me any time at all to study for any subject in these desperate times. Making matters worse, he prepared a few question papers before going to sleep and arranged them with questions he picked very randomly from my text books that were out of pattern and syllabus from the board exam question papers. Then the next day in the morning, he gave me those question papers and told me to attempt all the questions that I know well and thoroughly then attempt any that I couldn’t answer well while he went off to office. To make it even more disastrous, he hid all my notes and text books and told me to answer them on my own and in my own way without seeking any answers!. This lunatic way of learning and preparing had further stressed and made me very anxiously confident that I wasn’t going to clear any exam for sure.
Final board exam month, our center for writing the exam was chosen to be my ex-school - IISJ boys section. I appeared on the first day and already confident that I wasn’t going to ace the first paper. My class mates were around as well but all of them avoided contact with me for the time being. Even my cousin avoided me as well and meddled with other class mates. This was partially good as I could concentrate on revising in these dying and desperate times some of the topics that could appear in the final paper but alas, it was all in vein. After all the exams ended, I lied my parents that I did well enough to pass all the papers… knowing very little that we were returning back to India to pursue higher education for my sake. My “close friend” invited me and the rest of the class over to his house for a little get together party before we all part ways to different countries to pursue higher education. My dad was disappointed with my visit to his house as well as he wanted to have a word with the scam that he did. That unfortunately never happened.
In April of 2010, we bid goodbye to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and set off to Hyderabad, India - Our home city and my birth place for me to pursue higher education. After a 6 hour flight, we arrived at the new airport again, and went straight to our house which dad had it commissioned to be built by his very close best friend from school and university back in 2001. Over the course of those 9 years, we kept sending IKEA furniture as it was my parent’s favorite and trusted brand to buy furniture from even though at the time there was no IKEA in the country at the time, dad was confident that one day, IKEA would open in our city. We got it all open and built the furniture at our home and kept it prepared for when we’d eventually return from Saudi Arabia for good.
And that concludes the Part 2 of my autobiography. I apologize for the insanely lengthy post and the long delay to put it out as I was caught up with a lot of issues which you’ll read them about them in the next and possibly the final part of this this blog post along with my face reveal.
Thank you so much for tolerating and being patient with me all this time and enjoy reading what I write about.