6th Anniversary CTzen Autobiography Blog - Part 4
Part 1 and Part 2 of my autobiography focused mainly on my childhood and teenage past while Part 3 mostly focused on my recent adulthood past that spend mostly here in India and some in Saudi Arabia focusing on the Educational life here, getting my driving license and my inspirations.
This will be the penultimate episode of my autobiography that will conclude my journey up and until as of 2017. In this you’ll be reading about how I became a moderator on Car Throttle, the hardship, struggles and family issues that I’ve been through. This autobiography will be concluded with my what my will desires to contribute to the automotive community in the next autobiography blog post.
At the end of October 2011, my country hosted the first ever Formula 1 race at the Buddh International Circuit. A race that I really wanted to see live. As Saudi Arabia never televised Formula 1 due to various unknown reasons, I only got glimpse of them on news only. But here in India, Formula 1 was televised long before it was even in the country. However, we still didn’t have a television at home even after we had moved to India by this time period. So instead, I’d go to my mom’s brother’s house to watch the race from there. This would go on until 2012 when dad would finally buy a Sony Bravia 46” TV and a local cable provider. This is when I got to watch the Indian Grand Prix at home for the next two years. Unfortunately, my busy schedule at University meant that I couldn’t watch any of the races except for the Indian GP and I kept missing most of them.
While 2012 finally saw me get my driving license and find a reason to be happy about, it was overall a mediocre year that went past by. I had to work and spend way too much to achieve very little which ultimately made me feel disappointed and filled me with anxiety at times. But once again, during my free time, I would pull out my book and sketch or doodle something in it from my imagination or play video games to push away the troubling thoughts.
Other means I had was the influence of music. Like Linkin Park’s latest album of 2012, Living Things which saw the promotion of the video game Medal of Honor: Warfighter through the song Castle of Glass. Obviously, being a Linkin Park fan, I decided to buy the game as it had been a while since I played a war game other than Call of Duty Modern Warfare series. While I couldn’t play the game entirely as it required skills and understanding of previous games to play through and as I was really short on time as I was on a residence permit renewal visit from India, I quickly turned off it to play Shift 2 and Grand Turismo 5 on my Logitech G27 sim setup.
Towards the end of 2011 onwards, my beloved Need For Speed franchise started to take a questionable direction… with a Need For Speed game releasing every six months, the quality was starting to take a hit with the release of the Need For Speed: The Run. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the limited edition of this game while I was in Saudi Arabia as limited edition versions of the games either didn’t release in India at the time or were very expensive. So in 2012, one of aunts (my mom’s elder sister to be precise) went to US to visit my cousins who were living in Chicago and on her way back I requested her to just get me a limited edition version of The Run game. And sure enough, she did. It was a linear gameplay featuring diverse roads across fictional USA instead of circuits and tracks split into stage segments where overtaking all the cars in each stage before a set time was the key to advancing the story… which itself was typically cheesy and very short. While the addition of classic cars such as the 993 Porsche 911, Datsun 240Z and the Ford Mustang Mach 1 were a great, it didn’t necessarily improve the overall immersion of the game. The handling model was also rather annoying with handling classified as either Easy, Normal, Difficult, Very Difficult or Challenging. Running off the road even just a little bit resets the position of the car back on the road making it feel very annoying and frustrating to play and took away one of your lives for the stage. The car customization was also very limited as there was just a few set of bodyworks, wheels and colours to choose from. It also featured some interactive timed cut scenes for the first time which was a nice addition but was very limited in execution. Once, I completed the story, I couldn’t be bothered to play the game again or attempt any of the challenges as I didn’t find the direction and concept of the game very appealing.
As me and sister had rounded up our high school, my close friend came around to my house one day and introduced me to a game that I had a distant memory of playing on my PC back in early 2000s… though there was no relation between the two games, it still bought back some childhood memories of it. I told him about my Toshiba gaming laptop, so to test it out, he got a pirated game that had launched a year prior - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. This was my first ever FPS game in a very long time. Though I had bough Medal Of Honor: Warfighter previously (and left it back in Jeddah at the time), I never fully played it as I found the hand held controls to offer limited movement and the game itself to be very technical for my liking.
I had paired my Toshiba L755 with a very cheap $20 Logitech wireless mouse also in black and red to match my laptop colours for the “gamer aesthetic”. While playing with the wireless mouse for me at the time didn’t seem to make a whole of difference as it was my very first time playing an FPS game with keyboard and mouse, I couldn’t tell the lag I was experiencing during gameplay… and that’s because the mouse had low DPI from it’s software itself. And at the time, I didn’t know too much about computers either.
Getting into the story first, the dramatic and Hollywood-ish cut scenes and music composed by Brian Tyler had already put an amazing first impression on me. The guns themselves had a lot of kick, sounded deep and felt very satisfying pulling the trigger giving a sense of empowerment and gutsy feeling. A few days into it, I already finished the story on ‘Novice’ setting. Amazed by the story alone, I decided to play the game again on a more harder difficulty and pretty soon getting addicted to it, I decided to finish the story on every difficulty to get the 100% completion satisfaction as I very deeply enjoyed playing an FPS game for the first time. Never before have I enjoyed re-playing a game more and more than COD:MW3. Then later, I would go on to play the survival mode which was intensive and very challenging to get as high as possible in the heat waves. It was the most amount of fun I had playing a challenge series and in a genre not relating with racing for a change. This shift in interest towards genres other than racing made me appreciate the racing genre even more all thanks to my new best friend.
Looking to add more games to my collection, I reinstalled some of my older games like Need For Speed: Underground, Underground 2, Most Wanted and Juiced 2 for nostalgic reasons. While these games ran a lot better on my Toshiba laptop with better up-scaled graphics, speed and stability than my LG RD410 laptop, it was again limited on the storage side as my laptop only had 500GB of HDD… also onto which the OS was installed upon. Meaning pretty soon, my storage was started to get clustered from my phone back up, music, movies, TV shows and games over time.
In October of 2012, EA released their most disappointing game to date that I played born with a familiar name from the past - Need For Speed: Most Wanted. I bought the limited edition version of the game from a local electronic store upon release for PlayStation 3 as my birthday gift. I realised that it had no co-relation to the original Most Wanted from 2005 at all but it didn’t stop me from buying the game in the first place and I wouldn’t be playing this game until next year by which time we get the PlayStation 3 back home in India. It was essentially a Burnout Paradise with some licensed cars. There was no real handling model as the physics was also directly lifted from that game as well. Nor was there any story or car customization. Just changing the colour at random when going through petrol station and fixing any damages caused during gameplay. I just couldn’t really get into the game either as it was uninspiring and felt as if it was made for people way below my age rather than being made for everyone who enjoys driving cars. After just 7 hours of playing the game, I couldn’t have been bothered to play it ever again. This was the second game in a row I was disappointed with at the time. What’s more, a few months later, the iconic BMW M3 E46 GTR from the original Most Wanted was up for purchase as a DLC… but it was in the game files from the very beginning as EA had barricaded the car behind a paywall to unlock it. And the whole game revolved around being always online to play it which didn’t make much sense. This had made me suspicious of EA’s acts as the quality of the games were being butchered and the one of the few franchises that I had been buying and playing since childhood had met with a lowly criticism from me. While the journalists and reviews claimed the game to be a 9/10 material, for me it wasn’t even a 5/10 as it was an iconic name with nostalgia behind it… only to be butchered by slapping the name and reskinning a Burnout game to be sold for $60. It was the most disappointed purchase I had ever made but I kept my hopes up a bit that the next Need For Speed would turn out to be better than the one I played.
Towards to the end of 2012, we also got our own internet connection as well. Previously, we were relying on an open unsecured Wi-Fi network from a bank next to our house to browse the internet. It was slow and the range was very limited at the time. That eventually got replaced with a secure connection so it was about time we got one. We had convinced dad to set up our own internet connection and before the start of university, he eventually did just that. Now that we finally got our own internet, this meant that with our newly installed 75 Mbps connection from our ISP, we could finally browse the internet much faster and also enjoy online gaming on my laptop.
2013 also saw me make friendship with a person in the class who I managed to get along very well. It turned out that he lived right across my house and was just lucky enough to get admission in DCET college. He (Will refer him as CL2) and my close friend CL1 would get along with one another very well.
One day in early 2013, I was browsing Facebook when I encountered some memes relating to Assassin’s Creed III being “a better history teacher than the one at school”. It was a game launched in October of 2012 with high praises for it’s story focusing on history of the American Revolution and parkour style gameplay. The series started after the Prince of Persia series had ended… meeting with a very positive feedback and generating a lot of hype around the series after the much acclaimed Assassin’s Creed II (which I didn’t knew anything about it at the time). Curiosity got the most of me from those memes about the Assassin’s Creed series being a great educational video game and thus intrigued by it’s appraisal, I began looking around for more. Browsing the YouTube for the latest game releases, I encountered the Assassin’s Creed III trailer that had millions of views at the time with the dramatic trailer showcasing a hooded Assassin bravely riding and fighting through the battlefield during the American Revolution moving in for an assassination on the British commander.
Intrigued and amazed by the trailer and going through some walkthroughs of the game and seeing that it was a third person game, at first I decided to buy the game for PlayStation 3. But because the copy of PlayStation 3 was relatively expensive at the time, I decided to buy the PC version instead. With the rise of the IT sector in mt city and the Silicon Valley of India i.e Bangalore city, there were a lot of online shopping websites to shop from. Amazon was gaining a lot of name at the time so I decided to head over there to buy games from there but for whatever reason, the website wouldn’t load up quickly and I couldn’t get to the order placement page at all. Frustrated by this, I decided to look around other websites with a better UI and interactivity. And eventually, I found another equally popular website by the name ‘Flipkart’. Similar to Amazon, it was an online shopping website that also sold video games as well and loaded up a lot better than Amazon and that ended up becoming my go to website for buying video games for the time being.
Within a week’s time after placing the order, I got my physical hard copy of the Assassin’s Creed III video game. It was one of the very first things I bought online. Upon installing the game, I was introduced to a game launcher by the name Uplay - a Ubisoft game launcher with online store for buying games digitally. This was also the first time I came across game launchers that would become mainstream one day. The game itself played very well. A lot of immersion, story and maps to explore as it was set in the historic 17th century American cities like Boston, New York and other locations such Lexington. The parkour and combat mechanisms were something I had never seen in my life before. Running up walls, buildings, trees and other obstacles seemed like a huge convenient compared to other games I played like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a game that I had played when I visited India during vacations and our grandfather had a computer at the time in his apartment with some games installed on it by my cousin brothers. After finishing the game the first time, my mind was blown away by how incredible the story, gameplay and the world was. So much so that I went on to play the game three times over!
Assassin's Creed III started a new interest in me that was lost many years ago - my love for educational video games. This was a genre I aspired towards as there was something to be gained out of and be enjoyed. It was an amazing insight as well. It also gave me an insight as to what and how the American culture established and formed as it was one of the things that baffled me many times during my school years. Never once were we taught about the American history and yet there were hundreds and thousands of Indians who were willing to go to USA to live there after studying without knowing anything about the country's culture and history.
After finishing Assassin’s Creed III, I bought the prequels of both Assassin’s Creed III and Call of Duty Modern Warfare franchise later on just to get the complete picture of the story that followed upto the games I played. Luckily for me, the price of all those games were adjusted with depreciation and with regional pricing which meant they were all very affordable. Both these franchises also got me into the interest of cosplaying as well.
Around the same time I discovered Assassin’s Creed III trailer, I encountered a teaser trailer for a game that I had vaguely predicted the future of human civilization when I watched the ‘i,Robot’ movie - Cyberpunk 2077. While the two minute and a half trailer didn’t reveal much information other than end with a simple message “Coming: When it’s ready”, I decided to look forward to this game as there weren’t many cyberpunk genre games available at the time and the recent issues that were developing in the country and within the Indian community as I wanted to see an artists vision and prediction as to how the society would move with technology manipulation. Though this was the game that made me look forward to buying some cyberpunk genre associated games in the future.
Many people buy video games for the purpose of entertainment and enjoyment. But I decided to buy these games for understanding an artist's vision, his take on society, developing issues, violence, financial understanding and building skills that would in turn help me in building my career.
Another reason for me to buy video games was to understand the direction of the future of how companies would potentially work so as to stay a step ahead of the game. This idea came to my mind back when I was in school and we were asked about our career choices. Staggered by how many students said the same job over and over, not just in my class but in my school, it was becoming clear that one day, there will be an existential job crisis hitting everyone.
During the E3 week in June of 2013, Ubisoft revealed a potential alternative to the Need For Speed series: The Crew. It was an arcade racing game with car customization and progression once seen in the Underground and late 2000s Need For Speed games. The trailer got me excited for a racing game that could replicate the fun and diversity of the old Need For Speed games with the body customisation and performance tuning aspect that was missing from the recent Need For Speed games. Although I would be waiting for about a year to get an idea of what the game is going to be. But this would be the first time I genuinely started to show interest in racing games made by brands other than the established names.
Around the month of November 2013, we visited Saudi Arabia again for the residence permit renewal. Mom had told us to pack up our some of our belongings there little by little to take it back to India a few years ago. Naturally, we started out with small things such as books and toys like my die-cast models. However this time, my sister decided to snuck the PlayStation 3 along with all the games we had at the time by stuffing it into her and my brother’s backpack without dad knowing that we had taken away the PlayStation 3. Unfortunately, dad never let me take the Logitech G27 simulator with me as he assumed that I would be wasting my time on the simulator and that he wanted me to concentrate on my studies instead. This meant that we could legitimately buy games for PlayStation 3 in India whenever we wanted to. Me, my brother and sister would use our savings to buy dozens of games on it more than on my laptop in the coming months adding them to our gaming collection but it would also prove to be a big convenient and a place to meet new people in the future that I wouldn’t have imagined.
Towards the mid 2013, my Nokia E7 had already been used to the point of exhaustion and had developed a lot of issues. Above that, Microsoft had bought out Nokia and the company was no more. With the new era of mobile application based smart phones emerging, it was time to switch over to a more relevant platform. At first, my brother got himself a brand new Samsung Galaxy Note, a tablet-smart phone hybrid with a very large screen and a stylus pen with all the flexibility from Android, this was the first time I’ve seen Android up close and realised just how much potential there is in it. This made my Nokia E7 comparatively very inferior and lacked a lot of interactivity with other phones in a way Samsung had. This prompted me to look for an alternative and ultimately had me settling on Samsung again. My close friends had got their hands on the Samsung Galaxy S2, which was known for being a great value for money and offered great performance against the iPhone. Soon, everyone I knew was making a move towards Androids or iPhone. So, after much research and analysis, I came to the conclusion that for flexibility and fast tasking with low maintenance, the Samsung would fit my needs going forward. Hence, as dad was about to visit India again from Saudi Arabia for vacation, he got me the flagship Samsung phone of 2013 - the Samsung Galaxy S4 in pearl white. Though I wasn’t much of a fan of white phones, I decided to just ignore it and be grateful that I had finally moved on from my old phone. Though, it wasn’t without it’s faults right out of the box. It immediately started to heat up quite often and had to have a lot of it’s features turned off to prevent the battery from overheating and bulging from the heat generated during used. It wasn’t a great start to my journey into a new Android phone but I decided to carry it on with it as I needed a new phone anyway.
As the year continued, my brother got even more toys than I did. At first he got an iPod Touch and then an PlayStation Portable PSP-3000 Gran Turismo edition. This was our 3rd hand held console ever. The PSP-3000 was an updated model with improved colour and contrast display, disc tray, button positioning and an added microphone. This was available in gloss piano black finish. It was also the first time I got my hands on it’s discs and memory stick. Very unconventional, limited in use and expensive… all of which contributed to the lack of sales to begin with. The games we bought on it were very limited but varied on our tastes such as Need For Speed Underground: Rivals, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Ben 10: Alien Force Cosmic Destruction, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Sonic Rivals 2 were some of the original UMD disc games we bought while other games such as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Burnout Dominator, Final Fantasy Dissidia: Final Fantasy and God of War: Ghosts of Sparta were all downloaded on to the Sony Memory Stick Pro memory card and had the PSP hacked to run games off the memory directly instead. It was an easy and viable option to get a lot of games on it without having to go around looking for them as most of these games were quite scarce.
Continuing with 2013, whenever I would visit Jeddah for our family’s residence permit renewal, my dad would take me and my brother to the construction site inside the KAAU university every time but this time around, he started to give me tasks and objectives such as inspection and surveying of the construction site… specifically, with the Heating Ventilation And Cooling (HVAC) and fire fighting systems. This initially started out as a survey trainee job for me where I was given a blueprint layout of the building site on an A1 paper sheet and a highlighter. I was told to inspect the building and locate all the nozzle spray points for the firefighting system in the ceiling and ensure all of them have been installed or not. Similarly for the HVAC ducting. This would happen every time during my residence permit renewal stay in Jeddah and was done so as to aid me with my experience with job later on when I eventually get a job. Once I would complete the survey for the day, I was reported to provide feedback and situation report on the progress of the construction site. Now because I wasn’t officially hired by the company my dad was working in, I didn’t get any pay for any of my efforts. But during the return journey back to Hyderabad, dad would give me some cash as part of my efforts that I had managed to learn something and to help me financially back in India as the currency value of Saudi Arabian Riyal (SAR) was significantly much high than Indian Rupee (INR). This meant that I could use the money attained in Saudi Arabia and convert them into Indian Rupees which would make it significantly more in value and thus end up with more savings in sense than usual.
While the trainee job my dad put me on was said to be for my own benefits, it didn't seem to interest me all that much as the only co-relation I was able to draw from the HVAC and fire fighting systems were the air-conditioning and radiator cooling in a car's system respectively... both of which I had already known about for a while. The only upside to all this was that I was being paid by dad for inspecting and keeping track of the progress at the site. So there was that.
Towards the end of 2013, I looked up to my next most highly anticipated Need For Speed game. This time it was Need For Speed: Rivals. This game took the turn for something the Need For Speed series was never known for - power ups. Once featured in the Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2010, they made a comeback again with the Rivals with more ridiculous arcade style power-ups. This made the game feel very unrealistic and senseless with all the licensed cars from the real world. The game’s progression was variable based on who you play as. On one side, you can play as racer and on the other side, you had to play as a cop. This meant that altering between the two gave you a good balance of difficulty. While there was a lot of free updates and content added to the game, it was relatively fun. Though the burnout arcade-y style brake-to-drift physics had started to get on my nerves. The always online element of the game made it very annoying for me to continue on playing even after finishing it, and that was primarily because of the free added content such as the Koenigsegg One:1. Clearly, having played Need For Speed for 14 years now, I was left disheartened to see just how much far sunken Need For Speed had gotten. From making realistic handling and driving cars to now making arcade games with no direction.
Finally in December of 2013, Polyphony Digital released their latest franchise in the Gran Turismo simulation video games - Gran Turismo 6 15th Anniversary Edition which I got it via pre-ordering through Amazon for the first time as I knew this would be a very highly anticipated game everyone would be looking forward to and that it would go out of stock the moment it would go on sale in the country. Realising and anticipating that, I pre-ordered the game and by 7th December, I had the game delivered at my door step. The 15th Anniversary edition of GT6 came in a brushed aluminum case, something I always wanted in my gaming collection for self satisfaction for quite a while and luckily with this, I finally had one.
Another anticipated element in the Gran Turismo 6 was the update containing homage being paid to the 3 time Formula 1 championship, Aryton Senna. After watching a short documentary on Top Gear and the hour long documentary on him, realising his talent and abilities, I was very much looking forward to the Aryton Senna content in GT6.
The bonus with the 15th Anniversary Edition was that I got a boost in completing the quests and challenges with the cars that were already available to be to used right off. These cars were pre-tuned to have slightly more power output and handle slightly better than the stock car. These cars luckily helped me with my progression a lot as I didn’t had to buy too many cars wither. Which meant that I was able to save up a lot of cash for other cars I could use in classes that weren’t made available with the 15th Anniversary Edition pack.
Getting into the game, it was a much refined improvement over the previous Gran Turismo games as the handling characteristics of cars were changed a lot to make sense when driving with a controller and the balance of the cars changed to make them a little bit more forgiving even when the driver aids were turned off. This massively helped me a lot as someone who keenly wanted to get into sim racing but couldn’t because the learning curve that was implemented in other and previous games. All this meant, I would go on logging in hundreds of hours of gameplay time in it as I quickly became addicted to the newly added challenges online. Those challenges helped me a lot in improving and understanding the different disciplines of racing and how every car has to be setup to extract it’s maximum performance potential. As a result, I kept coming back to GT6 over and over to improve myself, learning new techniques, management and strategies. Over the course of it’s lifespan, the game received several updates from VGT series cars, concept cars, new released cars, race tracks, track builder and weekly challenges. This added a lot of excitement and play time to the game and I would go on playing the game until I would buy PlayStation 4.
With the license and the Red Bull challenges, the game helped me massively in learning how to tame cars at very high speeds and how much input was required to keep them stable all while having optimum driving aids. Thus, when moving on to other racing games, everything I learned from GT6 - the racing lines, braking points, brake pressure, steering input and the overall setup of the car helped me massively in bagging podiums and wins from that moment on.
In 2014 the Aryton Senna challenge series update came in as part of the 20th death anniversary of the legendary racing driver, it was only a test to see how much did I learn about driving on a controller. The challenge was amazing and proved to be a great benchmark to test oneself of where one would place themselves against Aryton Senna’s virtual lap times. The updates and content made the game very addictive sans par the infamous “vacuum cleaner” sound and low resolution of some models of the cars. Despite that, the game overall became my all time favorite and had seen the highest recorded playing hours on it.
Not only was the game great at teaching novice and returning players the physics and driving capabilities in it, it was also a great source of inspiration and a learning tool for my learning curvature.
Becoming Familiar with Car Throttle:
After joining the Car Throttle community in 2013, I began exploring the website for more content and started to become familiar with the workings, the ideologies and the wisdom shared by people on it. The site had just turned about a year old since the renewed layout and there were additionally some members and users who were here before me and were part of the website. These people were the initial members who were part of the website before I came along. After going through the post/article, I would reach the comments section where I would see some users regularly commenting. I slowly began interacting with them one by one getting to know everyone on the website.
After a few months of surfing on the Car Throttle website interacting and reading everyone’s views and opinions, it became apparent to me that there are cars out there that are not that well known but have a legacy of being great in their own rights in terms of engineering and design… and that there are cars other than Nissan Skyline GT-R, Toyota Supra, Porsche 911, Ferraris and Lamborghins. It was part of the reason I’d watch Top Gear so often so as to get an insight and get a better understanding of the automotive world. But even then, the episodes shown on TV at the time in Saudi Arabia didn’t air many smaller tiered cars episodes meaning I never had any idea about the affordable mainstream selection of sports cars at the time.
It was thanks to this amazing community that I got to learn about cars and the car culture I've not known before and appreciate them even more so. This community discussion eventually led me to appreciating the cars I had overlooked when I was growing up like the Datsun 240Z, Saleen S7, Mazda Miata, Honda S2000, Honda Civic EK and EG, Maserati GranTursimo, BMW E38 7-series, Volkswagen Golf and cars that I never saw and came to appreciate them even more like the Ford Mondeo ST, Skoda VRS line up, Alfa Romeo 147, BMW E30, E36, Toyota MR-2 AW11, AW20, Corolla AE86 Levin and Trueno and MG sports cars were all thanks to the exposure of the community I had on Car Throttle that taught me that there are people with different tastes and style they appreciate variably from car to car.
As I grew common with the folks on it, the more interactions I made with them made me feel blend in. But it wasn’t always the case. As Disqus comment service was an open system meaning anyone with a Disqus account could just jump in and post a comment on any website that has the service, it bought along many judgemental people along with it that who were completely unfamiliar with the community and already had Facebook or Twitter accounts jumped on to the website to leave their opinion. This created a lot of mixed reactions and feedback to the community as any news or article that got a lot of attention on social media ended up attracting some people with very odd opinions. One such instance was Paul Walker’s death in late 2013.
By the end of the year, I was following a lot of car communities online especially on Facebook. Many of my friends found that to be very weird but little did they know or understand about my passion for cars. However, it was one of these communities that bought me to the idea that I was familiar with myself - car spotting. One such popular icon was Tim Burton from Shmee150 who does regular supercar spotting that I began following on YouTube, and then his page on Facebook. When Paul Walker’s death hit the headlines in late 2013, everyone was shocked and saddened by his death but little did anyone know about his occurrence of his death. Many users simply made up his death events stating he crashed while traveling in a straight line. As I went off to investigate his death searching for sources around the internet that may have uncovered the series of events, I stumbled upon a possible valid source from a Shmee150 follower. The person that uncovered the story apparently lived in California where the crash happened. He explained using Google maps and some listing from used exotics cars website to prove his case. Rodas had acquired a very low mileage Porsche Carrera GT in red and had attended a charity event to raise money for Philippines flood disaster with Paul at the time. After which he got into the car with him and fled towards a business park that had a wide high speed turn that was used by car enthusiasts for drifting and powersliding at high speeds. It was on this corner, they lost control of the car at more than 130 km/h (83 mph), spun and crashed into a tree where they sustained traumatic injuries. The car’s fuel tank had ruptured and exploded killing both of them in the process. One of the theories he used to back the crash was the factory tires which hadn’t rolled in over 9 years since the car left the factory. These tires quickly degraded under pressure when Rodas initiated a powerslide and the tires immediately gave up, causing the car to loose grip and spun around and crash sideways into a tree which cracked open the fuel tank and bursting into flames.
When I shared this news on Car Throttle to prove the series of events that lead to his death, many Disqus users dismissed the claim stating that Paul Walker was killed when he was street racing and driving fast in a straight line and lost control… despite the entire evidence showed to them, no one believed me and dissed at me that I was simply bluffing. However, a month or two after his death, Paul Walker’s death investigation report was released and happened to match every bit of the Shmee150’s follower’s report and theories he had stated. It made me realize that people who had dismissed the report I fetched and showcased as possible evidence had simply jump to conclusions based on their experiences and interactions rather than letting the community members or experts speak for themselves. After the report spread out, all those people who had dismissed the report I shared were nowhere to be seen and were probably left eating my dirt.
The argument that broke out on Paul Walker's death report with random strangers was a reminder for me that any massive online community with an open system will bring in some people that will have a very biased opinions and would jump to conclusions without any proof or validation.
As 2014 went on, I started to get familiar with more people on the website… getting to know more users that I see often on the website. At the same time, the website was undergoing changes to suit the modern interactivity for users to engage with the community more often.
The Car Throttle website I was interacting with had very few features and interactivity to go around with. There was the main page with all the latest stories, trending stories and videos that would make it there. The only community bit about the website was the ‘Memes’ section where users could submit their memes. It didn’t mattered where it came from, if it was original or re-edited… as long as it gained popularity, it would make it on to the trending list and get shared on Facebook or Twitter. Again, the Memes was also divided into sections namely ‘Hot’ and ‘Latest’ with the former depicting the trending and popular Memes liked the most by the community which were the ones that would get posted on the social media for sure and the latter showcased all the memes that were just posted in the community.
On morning of 23rd May, 2013, the website underwent an overhaul that also changed the font style of Car Throttle logo. This was nice change of style as the logo looked more subtle and simple. The ‘ttl’ in the ‘Throttle’ is suppose to resemble a 5-speed manual with reverse gated shifter. A representation of an element of what the community loves about driving. While this change was minor, the front page looked different and had a darker shade background with the lettering in white and certain elements of the website written in orange lettering. This improved the look of the website from the old one drastically and made it more user friendly to interact with. Along with this new update was the introduction of the ‘Shop’. This was an online store that showcased what were all the items and merchandise Car Throttle had to offer.
With this new update, there was the addition of the Garage with many segments of the editorial staff now categorized under the ‘Topics’ banner. It was an interesting addition to the website that changed the way users interact with the community. Simply take a picture of your car and upload it onto the website for everyone to see. This bought a new level of interaction to the community with users ‘upvoting’ cars they liked the most.
But one of the most much needed feature that was added was the Search bar. A much requested feature by some users at the time that brought even more convenience to the user interactivity and surfing experience. Entering a single or a few words gave the results precisely what the users were looking for. Eventually the much needed ‘Discuss’ feature was finally added for the community to interact among themselves by sharing posts, cars, stories and memes thus making Car Throttle a true online Car Community! The website underwent even more changes simplifying the layout and creating categories making the front page look even cleaner and well organised. This meant that all posts in Discuss were all put together one above another based on the upvotes each post had received in ‘Hot’ segment while the ‘Latest’ showcased the posts users posted based on the time they’ve posted it. And lastly, there was the ‘Top’ segment which saw the most highest upvoted posts by users based on the timeline.
2014 saw Car Throttle move up among all the other car communities and establish itself as the place for car enthusiasts to hang out. At first they started out with the comedy series of 2 Guys 1 Car where Alex Kresten and Ethan Smale act out the satire parodies of fictional yet true parodies of the differences are between a car guy and a non-car guy in and around cars. This series gained a lot of popularity and became one of the reasons for many car enthusiasts to share their passion for cars here on this amazing community platform. In 2014, CT rolled out a new series - Reader’s Rides where they interview car owner’s amazing cars. Everything from classics to tuners to SUVs to supercars were all featured in this series.
These amazing interactions with the community meant that I soon got the attention from some of the staff members too. One of them being the key people of Car Throttle’s founder himself, Adnan Ebrahim as he would occasionally interact with users in the comments section. Users would praise him for creating a platform and a community for all car enthusiasts to unite and share the passion of cars all together and with some of my upvoted comments and sense talking, put me on the radar with the staff.
My appraisal for the efforts Adnan had put into creating this community to bring car enthusiasts from all over the world was immense. I pointed out all the amazing steps that he had taken to develop the community to be where it was at the time and even made suggestions from time and time again which I thought had put me on his radar (which it turned out to be true).
2014 saw Car Throttle being put on the map as there was a massive traffic flow increasing on the website with many users claiming the website to be the best community platform for car enthusiasts around ever. Throughout the year, Car Throttle saw itself grow up quite a lot. From driving Skoda and Hondas to now driving higher end tier cars like McLaren, Rolls Royce, BMW M cars and Audi RS line-up cars. More over, there was a lot of involvement of the community itself with their contributions and various cars of different style, category and taste were being added to the garages… which in turn brought in more users everyday. Some of these cars were BMW E46 M3, Nissan Z sports cars and most commonly popular being added here, the Mazda Miata NA along with the most popular car to recieve the highest upvotes being the Nissan Skyline GT-Rs if any were added. 2014 in general was a great year for Car Throttle to see such a large share of new and vivid users join the community at a fast pace and be a part of it.
While going through some of the comments on a post in 2014, Adnan came across a user who had suggested a word to describe a user of a Car Throttle family... and so the word 'CTzen' was made official by the CEO.
Back in 2013, one of the most anticipated games of all times - Grand Theft Auto V saw it’s much anticipated release on 17 September. While I was keen on buying the game myself as it featured the much awaited online element which saw it bring millions of players come together in an open world engaging in various activities together, compete in contact missions, races and petty lobby activities, I decided to stay out of it at the start as I saw GTA series game as mostly an open world games to goof around in most of the time after the story has been completed and commit crimes you wouldn’t be able to in the real world… and ofcourse have fun in it. The other element that kept me out was the fear of getting grieved by other players which was predicted by many to happen when the online section of the game would release. But knowing Rockstar’s reputation for making video games with gangster lifestyle, crime and violence, the grieving by other players would be inevitable.
By 2014, Grand Theft Auto V was everywhere in the gaming media and was praised heavily for it’s story, plot, gameplay, cheats and mods. Moreover, it had crossed more than a $1 billion in revenue in it’s opening week making it the most successful launch of any entertainment product ever. The game was set in a parody setting of Los Angeles city with cars from the real world also being a counter part of being parodied as well. These elements were enough to attract even myself to join the game eventually. I visited my friend’s home a after the game was released and he had his cousins come at his place along with their PlayStation 4. After having a go playing the online element of it, I convinced myself to buy the game and aimed for the ‘Special Edition’ version of the game. After pondering over it for a while, that version eventually got sold out and was left with just he regular version. And that is what I had decided to settle on with. After finishing the story, I was blown away by the immense character and world immersion and played around a bit with the world exploring and getting to know the world better.
After finishing the main story, I jumped into GTA Online for the first time and started out by creating my male character at first and jumped into the first mission. Joining online and seeing so much diversity of players engaging in various activities made me awe of the amazement one could have in online. However, the game wasn’t without it’s hiccups as by the time I bought and jumped into the game, there were already a lot of modders placing items or abusing the game mechanics by placing objects, messing around with other players ragdolling them around and grieving them. These aspects of the game were turning me away from GTA Online as although there was amazing content, missions and the online story itself to enjoy, the whole grieving aspect of the game was having me turned away from it again and again.
After getting grieved for a while, I decided to go back and create a new female character in hopes that these grieves would leave me alone. And to my luck, it did eventually worked out… to a certain extent. Rather than getting grieved on, I was getting friend requests and helped out in some missions. I was suddenly looking forward to playing the game more often now that the grievers had left me alone but I was wrong again and unfortunately, I had worked my way up with the female character way past the point where I had left my male character at to go back again. Even though there was the kind gesture I received from some players because of my female character, I still got grieved from certain time to time. However, since I had worked so deep into the game, that I decided to play online sticking to my female character instead.
My progress was tedious yet consistent enough for me to acquire various variety of cars. And thanks to the much awaited Heists update, I played with some randoms to complete them and get the massive pay outs to further acquire various types of cars in game. Slowly and steadily I built up my collection of cars in game as the Heists had given me more than enough money to buy a large 10 car garage apartment and fill every slot in the garage with all the desirable cars in the update which was a dream for many players back then.
By May 2015, Car Throttle underwent a major overhaul changing the entire layout by making the community feed the main page itself to resemble a more Facebook/Twitter social media style vertical sliding user interaction. This bought out a lot more exposure of user and staff generated posts, created content and every category had received an equal share of views based on community’s interest. Or if a user wished to see a peculiar set of posts, he could simply browse through the community categories and find/post in them or by simply ‘joining’ certain categories or ‘follow’ certain users to always get all the community feed upfront from those selected categories only in his feed. Again, very reminiscent of Facebook like structure as the user followed and joined posts only appear in the him/her feed. As the new layout proved to be very popular and very interactive at the time, the traffic flow on Car Throttle started to hit an all time high crossing well over a million users on Facebook alone! A huge mile stone for a small car community like Car Throttle to rise up against everyone else.
This new layout bought out a lot of flexibility and interaction as both new and old users and the staff could interact with one another getting to know, follow and communicate one another easily which in turn had increased the amount of traffic on the website immensely.
Another interesting yet useful feature that was added to the website was the live display of users on the website. Denoted as a ‘Petrolheads’ counter in the upper right side of the page, this gave users an advantage to post content at the right time to get the maximum amount of interaction, upvotes and potential followers on their account. This had further enhanced the user experience by miles and the community was making waves in the industry as an emerging community leader that Adnan perhaps never saw it coming.
The new layout also further enhanced other communities looking to make new friends and interaction as well. As the communities grew, I too joined some of them in hopes of meeting some news users to make friends with. This had naturally bought along some very unique and interesting users. One of them going by the username Momo. An extremely wealthy 19 year old from Dubai who joined the community to share his love and passion for cars with us. He started out by sharing his Ferrari 458 (to which he provided proof that he does own those cars in the picture below), then his Mercedes-Benz S-Class and then finally the Ford GT which he had officially added to the CT garage feature. Through the comments he had replied to, he stated that he started out as a trader and stock market broker, then moved to some automotive industrial investment and made millions from and rewarded himself with some supercars that he loved so much. One of his most anticipated purchases was a Porsche 918 Spyder in ‘Acid Green’ with Weissach Package, a very rare combination that not many spec’d their 918s in… and he was very happy to share the news of it’s arrival soon on the community with us.
Alas, his joy was short lived on the community as he had made an announcement on Car Throttle stating that he would be undergoing major surgery and his chances of survival would be low. He continued in the comment on his post thanking the community for the entertainment and joy that we had bought to his life and revealed some of cars in his collection that he hadn’t mentioned or added to the Car Throttle Garage yet.
**A few days later, Adnan posted the tragic news about Momo on the community feed stating that he had e-mailed him asking for his wellness… only to receive news from his brother that Momo had passed away on the morning of 6th of May. Momo was diagnosed with Marfan and Long QT syndrome. And though the surgery was a success, the doctors were unable to stem internal bleeding. This bearer of bad news post turned into one of the most trending topics on the community with which the community had replied with a trend honoring and paying a little tribute to him using #ForMomo #RIPMomo.
Although Momo was gone from our lives, he left behind a valuable lesson through his story narrating the tragedies and his rise to becoming financially successful in life and attaining the cars he had shared with us - It doesn’t matter if we are rich or poor, there’s always a way to become successful in life with determination and wisdom to achieve our goals in life. Although his 918 Spyder was delivered to a dealer in Dubai, it quickly got sold by his family who had either acquired his wealth or had sold some of it.
Although Momo is gone, he has left behind an amazing story to be inspired and motivated to and he continues to inspire the people on the community and beyond.
Race In Paradise, Momo
During the summer of 2015, I was browsing the Car Throttle community feed looking into the gaming section when out of nowhere I see an invite link to the GTA Online ‘Car Throttle Fans’ Crew posted by John. GTA Online featured an array of online modes and even including race ‘creator mode’ where users can create their own race tracks. I joined the crew, logged into my game and as I entered the crew lobby, there was already a small car meet taking place held by John and some other players. I joined the virtual car car meet and entered some races they had created. Thanks to my intensive hours invested in learning how to race in Gran Turismo 6, I was able to win some of these races though the challenge presented from these racers was a great way to start my friendship with some unknown users… and a lot of fun as well. And so thanks to the meet, I got to know John through the meet and races and eventually became friends with him.
The next time I browsed Car Throttle looking for an online meet again in GTA Online, I saw this post from Alain about another car meet in the game. I quickly added him to my friend’s list and decided to attend the virtual car meet with him. The meet saw new players and users join the crew and participate in the meet. With a bigger variety of cars in the meet thanks to the new DLC updates added to the GTA Online, we met up and hanged around the vicinity of Los Santos sharing our passion for cars. When we left off, we did so by adding more friends to our list now in hopes that we could do another meet and greet car meet online again. And so for the next week, Alain had planned another meet again but had advised to get the PlayStation App mobile for the purpose of communication. The GTA Online meets were getting bigger and bigger attracting more and more attention thanks to the amazing in-game screenshots we can take through the in-game mobile phone and share them via ‘Rockstar’s social club’ and then on Car Throttle.
This new car meet that we did saw even more users join as the Car Throttle community feed bought plentiful players to the car meet. Almost as much as an entire lobby full of players! We were able to hold Top Gear style races and engage in activities one could only wonder. Car Throttle’s community UI layout proved to be big success with just the gaming platform seeing so much user interaction spread across the platform. This bought some new faces that most of us would still communicate among ourselves often namely - Luke (Found when Alain was holding a mini car meet when most of us were asleep), Andres, Fad Hill, George, Nick, Artur, Alex, Rob and Mertcan. However, during the meets, we were encountering communication issues as the PlayStation mobile app was slow to respond, limited in functionality and had no options to create groups at the time. This meant that for the next car meet, Alain suggested we move to a messaging service called ‘•kik’ and created an “unofficially official” Car Throttle GTA Online group there and asked everyone to move there instead. Next, I helped John in creating the Car Throttle logo for our crew in GTA Online. The CT logo had minor edits and turned into an png image with a clear background. This would establish the new crew emblem for ‘Car Throttle fans’ in the game. With the communication issues sorted out, the meet when held saw the largest turnout. In fact it was a near lobby full of players who had turned up to attend the GTA Online virtual car meet! With a lobby full of players this time, we had devised a lot of activities to indulge ourselves in and the whole meet lasted over two hours with every player getting an equal amount of joy to be involved in. We closed the meet with a lucky rain shower in game which we took advantage of to drift it around a block in our Futos (AE86/88 based car in game) before we bid farewell with some explosions**.
These amazing meets were a result of the Car Throttle community and an amazing community UI layout that allowed many users and players to interact and find people of their nature and like mindedness to fool around and hang out in games. This amazing car meets was a result of the community interaction that resulted in me finding friends online that I would go on to cherish in the future. Car Throttle's community truly was a huge turning point in my life.
Meanwhile, on the other side, there was a lot about the community that I was getting to know. Particularly from the likes of individual YouTubers who ran their own automotive dedicated content on their channel from the likes of Jason Fenske (Engineering Explained), ChrisFix, 1320video, Rob Ferretti (SuperspeedersRob), Blair Joscelyne (MOOG) and Martin Mulholland (Marty) from Mighty Car Mods, Doug DeMuro, Tim Burton (Shmee150), TaxTheRich100, David Patterson (ThatDudeinBlue), Mr. Regular Car Reviews, Misha Charoudin (Boosted Boris), VisioRacer, Rob Dahm, Gears and Gasoline, Hoovies Garage, Taravish, Bladed Angel, Walterrific etc were all possible to find, learn and enjoy something new about cars everyday thanks to the Car Throttle staff members sharing their content with the community which in turned helped them grow in exchange as well. What eventually started out as a hobby for these people had turned into their full time job entertaining and teaching us everything that there is about the world of automotive.
Car Throttle had proved that not only could the community be a great way for the users to interact and share content with one another but also with the help of YouTube content creators, share all that there is about cars one could tell and share about. Everything from entertainment, knowledge, DIY projects, the do's and don'ts had all spread fast thanks to the growth and prosperity of Car Throttle.
Car Throttle was also the stepping stone to my introduction to other series of racing such as ADAC Nurburgring 24 Hours, Blancpain GT3 series and the 24 hours of Spa, WEC Le Mans 24 Hours and the unique Barthurst 12 Hours. After a few posts reminding us of the upcoming races, I would plan my schedule to not miss out on any of these races. All these racing series that I had seen and experienced in video games were suddenly live and free to watch online on YouTube. These had loads of exciting actions that would cling me on for hours. A nice change of pace from the usual Formula 1 that at the time had shifted to hybrid era and had seen consistently only one brand emerge as a winner. Once again, thanks to the Car Throttle I had found other forms of motorsports that I could look up to and enjoy.
Income Crisis, Family Issues and University Struggles:
I started my freshman year in the University affiliated college in November of 2012. And by May 2013, we had already reached the end of the first semester. By April, we had our semester finals and that meant me and sister had to rush to complete our semester. Unfortunately, during this time of the year, my mom and brother had to go back to Jeddah to have their residence permit renewed which meant we had to stay behind. Mom had decided that we would stay at our uncle’s house (my mom’s youngest brother) where my aunt (mom’s eldest sister) was also staying. We stayed at our uncle’s home for about two weeks before mom and bro would return and we’d return to our home again. During this time, I had to attend pre-final workshops and theory papers. And after they returned, we packed up and returned home to prepared for our finals. And as always, my mother called my aunt’s husband to have me picked up and dropped at my examination centers. By the month of May, I was writing my finals. And whilst I thought that education standards would be better at the university, I couldn’t be more wrong again. It was the same rote learning and answering system that I witnessed in high school. And to make the university education standard sound even less sensible, the first year was a repeat of what we had learnt in final year in our high school! It felt like repeating a year of high school again whilst already flunked in 12th Grade back in school in Saudi Arabia. Above that, the probability of our score being accurate after the examiners examine our papers and grant marks for our answers was quite low too making the education here a big financial risk.
There were two subjects that I was able to understand and execute problems easily in - Mechanics and Computers. Mechanics being a combination of physics and Mathematics while Computers concentrated on C and C++ language. Both of which I understood very easily and was confident to score well in finals in them. By June, we had already started our 2nd year as our freshman year had started very late due to the mess that happened with the high school physics paper. And within a month after our exams ended, the results were out. And to my surprise, I had flunked in nearly every subject except Computers, Mechanics and Physics. This obviously made my dad disappointed and I had to make preparations to rewrite these exams along with my 2nd year 1st semester papers. By the end of 2013, we had our 2nd year semester come to end with me now writing the semester final exams again along with the compartmental/supplementary backlog papers from my freshman year. The 2nd year of university was little more refreshing with some new subjects to learn whilst many being a continuation from 1st year. Some of these subjects were easy to master while many were challenging due to the medieval nature of the system itself. By December, we wrote our semester finals and backlogs and had moved up to 2nd semester where we had some of the workshops again. As usual, our results were announced and to my annoyance again, I was flunked in several subjects again but enough to be promoted to the 2nd semester. These constant failures of having to rewrite these papers had started to take a detrimental impact on me and pretty soon on my dad as well.
By the time I was in 3rd year, I was forced to take up private tuition once again with my backlogs building up. This time, at a local well known educational institute run by a modest private tutor who was willing to teach each and every subject in Mechanical, Electrical and Civil Engineering along with his colleagues in low cost rented buildings around the city. It was over here that one day I met another person who turned out to be a petrolhead like myself thanks to the connection between me and my close friend that I met in high school. Turned out, this guy was his classmate at one point back at IIS Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. We immediately became close friends (will refer him as ‘close friend 3’ or CL3) once we got to know the passion we shared.
Going through the same ordeal even in the university again made me infuriatingly frustrated having to learn the exact same thing in the freshman year as high school and wasting a year's worth of time made no sense from an education system's perspective to repeat the same subjects again only to waste a student's valuable time.
Up and until 2013, Saudi Arabia’s economy was performing and booming well as their revenue was solely dependent on oil alone. And as the oil at the time traded in for the highest peak of $120/barrel, they had a massive income at the time. These factors meant that every commodity, goods and produce in the country was very cheap and affordable. Everything from food to electronics and cars were relatively quite affordable as the currency was tied to the US dollar trading at 3.75 Saudi Arabian Riyals (SAR). However, things started to turn for the worst by mid-2014. Due to the excess supply of oil to the States, the price of oil started to decline and by 2015, the price of oil was reaching it’s all time low trading in at $35/barrel by that year. This turned out to be catastrophic as Saudi Arabia’s dominant income was slashed very heavily given the sheer amount of projects that were ongoing at the of the calamity. These factors contributed to the downfall of the economy and ultimately lead to a financial crisis. This meant that in any financial crisis situation, companies will take drastic measures and actions to fire as many employees as possible to save the company and it was no surprise as millions of employees were being fired from their posts. At first, when the crisis hit, companies were laying off mostly low tiered employees but as time moved on, eventually mid-tiered and few high tiered employees and particularly immigrants were being laid off as well. My father (also a working immigrant) was hired as a ‘Consultant Manager’ at the medical university where he was appointed by a multi-million dollar company he was working for to guide the projects at the time. Unfortunately for him, all the employees working under him were laid off as a result of the crisis. He knew that his turn would come eventually… just not sure when though. This had lead to a very low employee morale across the country and concerned families not knowing what action to take next with my father also being detrimentally effected by this grave situation as well.
During my resident permit renewal visit to Jeddah in 2014, things took turn for the worst. The collapse of the Saudi Arabia’s economy was starting to send waves across the country and it was evident that job uncertainty was rising to it’s peak immediately and that was clear from my father’s mood and his tone when he picked us up at the airport. During my visit, I bought along some of the workshop, other subject note books to complete and my laptop while I was on leave in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, my close friend had given me some episodes of Games of Thrones to watch which I was very much looking forward to. I had transferred some of the episodes into my mobile phone to watch whenever I would have free time.
When we got there, we had about a weeks time to complete our notes and workshop records before we go back to India. I was casually completing my records writing down everything from the workshop manual into my record, word-to-word (we’ve been instructed by our university professors to write everything from the manual into our records as is along with values and calculations for every exercise we’ve executed into the records). I was sitting on the bed across our room entrance facing adjacent to it completing my records with the phone hidden beside me playing GoT episodes with the earphone plugged into my left ear. While me, sister and brother were all completing our notes and records, my dad was enthralled in rage over my semester results out of his job uncertainty… walking back and forth in the apartment, entering our room and in absolute frustration and rage, scolding me for directly writing everything from the manual into my record without memorizing or practicing the exercises which according to him (irrational thinking) were the very reason for my constant failures and poor performance results at university.
I was minding my business completing my records whilst watching GoT on my phone beside me with just the left earphone plugged in, it was pretty much hidden beside me. However, after walking in frustration for too long, he decided to check on my work… and it was at that moment, he had spotted me using my phone running an episode of GoT on it. At the sight of it, he started to loose his temper and demanded that I had over my phone to him. At this point, my father’s raging face left me really dumbstruck as my mind went blank and I sat still giving a blank stare back at him not knowing if he’ll question me for the GoT episodes that I was watching. As my dad started to raise his voice in anger demanding me to hand over my phone to him, I just sat there on my bed blank minded. Then, he had lost it all. After shouting at me for a bit, he lost his temper and attempted to snatch the phone from my hands to which I resisted. This made him go psychopathic as he jumped on me in an attempt to snatch the phone off my hands while I was still motionless but resisting to subjugate my phone with the phone held firmly in my hand. He pushed me onto my bed screaming in rage, grasping both his hands around my neck squeezing down on it while screaming to get a hammer that he could swing on my head… and land a hard blow as he screamed. My mom heard the screams and rushed from the drawing room and attempted to pull dad away from me. After struggling to get between me and him, she pushed him back asking him to calm down but he didn’t. Panting in rage still, he made a lunge for my hand, grabbed the phone and threw it across the room, then looked around and saw my laptop on the study table with the external hard disk still plugged in. He grabbed and knee jerk pulled it off the table causing the hard drive to snap unplug from my laptop and land on the hard tiled floor breaking the plastic casing. Still enraged, he lifted my laptop above his head in an attempt to smash it as well. I immediately got behind him and locked his hands while calmly telling him to put my laptop down while my brother and sister snatched it from his hands and took it away from him. Mom interfered again asking him to leave the room and take a rest. Still raging in anger, he kicked my fallen phone on the ground as he left our bedroom and went into his bedroom and slam shut the door behind him without uttering a word.
Me, mom, brother and sister sat down to take a moment to realize what had even happened. I narrated them that I was minding my own business when dad walked in to check on me, raged over me because I “wasn’t concentrating while copy writing my records” with phone on my side. We went to bed disturbed by all the nonsense that my dad unleashed on me that day. But, before doing that, I decided to hide away my laptop from overseeing another raging session from him. Come the next morning and I couldn’t have been more right. Dad walked into our bedroom early morning shouting and vigorously shaking me breaking my sleep demanding to know where I had hid the laptop. I lay still in my bed not wanting to talk to him as the events from the previous day had left me sour. He proceeded to look it in our closet which is where I had kept it but he was unlucky to find it somehow as I had placed it in my clothes shelf and was somewhat in plain view. Unable to get an answer, he demanded again that by the time he comes back from the office, he wanted my laptop out and be handed over to him. Then slam closes our bedroom door and leaves for office. After my dad had left, I firstly decided to check the hard drive and assess the damage caused to it. I pulled out my laptop from the closet and checked the damage done to the hard disk. As we plugged the hard drive into the laptop, it made the unfortunate clicking sounds that I was fearing about - an indication of a broken component inside that was preventing it from reading the disc inside. We browsed the internet looking for an easy solution to fix it. Unfortunately, none of the methods that we tried availed us any success.
So what was on the hard drive that I desperately tried to revive it? Well, it contained some of my research, findings and articles on a project that I wanted to initiate at some point in the future after my studies finished. Above that, it also contained episodes of Top Gear, movies, cartoon shows like Kim Possible, ‘Ed, Edd n’ Eddy’, Sonic X etc. All of the data and time that we had spent to download and store them were suddenly left inaccessible on the hard drive. Then I had decided to hand over my older laptop, the LG RD410 which was left here at home in Jeddah disguising it as my newer laptop by switching the vinyl cover off it’s back. After switching it over, I placed the laptop in the laptop case and kept it outside. However, by the time my dad arrived home, mom consulted with dad and had resolved the matters. That meant, I had to undo my disguise and put back the vinyl cover that I had removed off my laptop. Despite the enrage, dad was kind enough to give me some money as usual before embarking back to India. What he hadn’t told me was when mom had consulted with him, she assured that I would be concentrating on my studies and that she would seize all my electronic utilities.
Unfortunately by this stage, my Samsung Galaxy S4 had already started to develop battery overheating issues and would either freeze or would require restarting. But this time when returning to India, my Galaxy S4 decided to take a “sick leave” and simply won’t turn back up. My only means to communicate with my Car Throttle friends that I made who were on the ‘•kik’ mobile app were cut off as the social media service was limited to mobile use only. This meant that I use an alternative means to communicate. One of them was through my laptop via Car Throttle community publicly and the other being private messaging on the PlayStation Network through my PlayStation 3. By the time we reached home from the airport and began unpacking, mom had already seized and hid my PlayStation 3 inside. Already frustrated from the mess that I had to deal with dad back in Jeddah, I now had to continue to suffer the same fate here as well. After a violent outburst of arguments and protesting that followed that I need PlayStation 3 to inform my friends online that I’ll be out of reach from them for quite some time, mom finally gave in and put back the PlayStation 3.
These violent episodic tantrums thrown by dad on me over my "unacceptable" study performance weren't justifiable when the education system itself was this broken and complex. Above that, the cultural pressure from my parents of scoring near perfect results had already worn me out and my performance kept declining during the finals at university.
2013 saw the redemption of myself as a automotive enthusiast thanks to the rise of Car Throttle and helped me realise the community and by 2014, I was happily reveling in it. But the collapse of the Saudi Arabia’s economy in 2015 was especially hard hitting for our family. As the decline in oil revenue started to hit Saudi Arabia’s economy hard in 2014, companies had halted wages to lower tier employees at first. Then eventually the middle tier employees and few top executives. My dad who was working as a consultant manager for the company ‘Bemco’ at the time had saw his wages halted as well putting his job in even more uncertainty. Eventually, all and any money going into the ongoing projects were stopped which forced many large projects to come to a grinding halt. This also included the Burj Al-Arab tower which was supposed to be the tallest tower in the world. Followed by this step, companies had resorted to firing low tier employees in a bid to keep their companies afloat. But even that was proven to be a very difficult proposition as it was financially impossible to run a company as the government just didn’t had any money to hand out to any of these companies. This led to a situation where executives and board directors of the companies were forced to take drastic measures - Lay off immigrant workers en mass from any position in the company. This was proven to be a life changing ordeal particularly as Asian origin immigrants were severely affected by the en mass lay offs from the companies and were forced to endeavor hardship to find a way of any sort of income. Some smaller companies who were short on employees managed to hire them and continue to run with rising debts while many were forced to suspend any operations and projects. This ended up creating more unemployment in the country eventually leading to smaller businesses also being affected.
While the world was enjoying the sudden drop in oil prices, we and most of the Asian immigrants working to save and build our future back in our home country were feeling the effects of an economy that ran on oil only and suddenly had the value of oil slashed heavily even though there was no recession period anywhere in the world.
To combat the rising unemployment in the country, the government had passed a ruling that would see small businesses being run by immigrants to be handed over to the locals and youths instead. Particularly the mobile and small street grocery shop businesses were forced to be handed over to locals. This had badly affected the labor morale for the immigrants and local citizens who trusted Asian origin people to run and understand the smaller business models better had taken aback by this move and further didn’t help with the economic crisis. Because this was still a time of crisis for Saudi Arabia, the government had resorted to recovering the debt rather than promote immigration into the country. These series of events had eventually reached a tipping scale as by the end of 2014 with companies started laying off employees en mass to save themselves from bankruptcy. At the same time, it was discovered that several members of the royal family and company executives were found to have laundered billions of dollars to themselves while spending only a fraction on projects and wages. This led to the upper managements across the country being sacked and arrested for their frauds but the damage was already done and the employees were the ones to suffer the brunt of these corrupt practices.
On 22nd July, 2015. The uncertainty for us amplified for the worse. Back in India, Me, mom, sister and brother were sitting down for dinner when mom finished a phone call with dad to tell us that he was laid off from the company at last. This was a grave situation to be in as the primary income from his day job which was already due for about a year had become uncertain if he’ll ever be paid even though dad had invested in various restaurants, shops and apartments here in Hyderabad and had a decent income. With his wage now due and being unemployed, dad had resorted to helping some of his colleagues and friends out clearing their debts in hopes he could make it back. Luckily for him, he was able to do so in time. But what he wasn’t able to do was find a secure job in any other company as the government changed it’s policy towards corporations, organisation and shops discouraging them from hiring any immigrant workers by imposing a certain amount of fine per immigrant per day and encouraging for the locals and local youth to be employed instead… despite the fact that the government was still openly allowing visas to be issued for job seekers. This made job application very risky for new immigrants and created uncertainty for existing ones with my dad, his colleagues and friends also taking a huge hit as majority of the companies had hired immigrant workers with a minor staff being local Saudis at the top. This had driven out many immigrants who were forced to send their families back home creating a snowball effect on the economy.
Despite the unemployment, dad began working as a freelancer by getting in touch with some of his older colleagues and bosses who were still working in the university. However, the policy of the Bemco company dad worked in was that if an employee has been laid off, he/she cannot be seen or be rehired by any sub contractors or be seen near within the premises of the ongoing projects. A very absurd policy to say the least. Dad decided to strive to get a job of some kind someway in order to make ends meet. After a few days of running around searching for a job and with some luck, he was able to find a mediocre job within the premises of the KAAU. One of the company bosses dad worked for, decided to hire him to finish some of the due projects on site that dad was once part of as quickly as possible via the sub contractors. As the total number of labors had dwindled down, the progress too became very tedious and slow. This proved to be a problem as a simple task would take weeks or even months to finish which meant that dad had to be stationed at the site for longer. Even though dad was “hired” in an illegal manner by his ex-boss, he was at least able to get his monthly ends meet and had to guide the projects to completion ASAP.
Staying at the site looking after a few labors do their job tediously meant that dad was loosing ample amount of time searching for another job elsewhere. In order to get around the issue, he decided to use me instead to have “him” stationed at the site while he would be away as my name and his name were coincidentally identical when reading, he would take me to the construction site during my visit for the residence permit renewal and discreetly have me put in place as a trainee under the sub contractor’s superintendence while he would go off in search of jobs or help other contractors . As there was mostly mechanical division like the HVAC and firefighting elements left to be completed, The sub contractor was a Pakistani national running the company in a desperate state. He didn’t had too many men nor did he have many resources left at his disposal but he kept the company going and had hired a few employees to keep the company alive and running with dad still acting as an advisory to his company. Around this time in 2015, the company still had employees and some upper management running the company with progress being made at a very tedious pace.
Having being hired as a trainee at the site under the sub contractor’s superintendence meant that I was unofficially employed via my dad. The first year I was at this new site, there were many employees who were still working with their wages on hold. There was a fellow DCET graduate from my city who was employed prior to the economic crash working in the mechanical department at the construction site whom I’ve been told to follow his foot steps. As I was still studying mechanical engineering and was on a leave, dad had decided to have me hired as an intern trainee at the construction site so I could gain experience prior to me joining a company for a full time job after graduating and help him around in Jeddah taking over the job that he was struggling to find… or so he thought.
These tough times were quite harsh on me and on my dad as the new policies worked against us in the country and the existential economic crisis situation didn't help with the employment forcing us to consider new means of income... something which me and dad's friends had suggested to him for quite a while. Dad rejected their advice as he assumed that setting up your own company was a waste of time and financially risky even though only the ones in the real estate business struggled. Alas, the tables had turned on him instead.
The Big Promotion:
Back in 2014 as I was surfing and getting to know the Car Throttle community, I encountered several users and staff members that I got to know by interacting with them over time… building up my reputation by making several posts and memes that got me a lot of followers and points. This reputation was further aided when Car Throttle rolled out ‘Blogs’ category to the community the following year in 2015 that saw engagement of the community delve into this feature to write up amazing articles and blog posts about cars in ways only the staff members could come up with… and I too decided to contribute as well by writing up a blog post about a superbike from a supercar company that many might have not known about. And rest assured, in the opening month of the blog posts tools being made available to the community, I took advantage of it to publish a small post to get some attention and my little blog post ended up getting Editor’s Pick by the staff for it’s simple yet ample information that it contained to get a highlight for the community. Then, a short while later after looking up classic cars to write about, I found this beautiful 1930s appearance car from Australia called Devaux that I found it interesting to write on about. Rest assured, even that got an Editor’s Pick as well. This made me fill me joy to know that I was appreciated by the community and impressed the Car Throttle staff to be on their radar.
As the community grew more and more, so did the need for having features that would help users navigating the site more as well. Particularly with keeping up with their favorite user or brand. Hence, a ‘Follow’ feature was finally added which saw users follow their users, staff or brand of their liking as they wished so and get notified or see their post up on top when they post. A very handy and useful feature that saw some of the hassle removed. What’s more, car meets organised by Car Throttle eventually became bigger and bigger and more popular. From Cars n Coffee in London to eventually going to Nurburgring, Germany to hold the meet. It was a great time to be a CTzen see Car Throttle rise up so much. Alex Kresten, the editor-in-chief and one of the stars of the 2 Guys 1 Car show got himself one of his first project cars - a 1991 Mazda Miata MX-5 NA, named it ‘Phil’ after Phil Collins (as Alex believes Phil is an automotive enthusiast) and was unveiled in April of 2015. What followed next was an amazing journey of Phil being restored to it’s original glory condition before installing mods as part of the latest series ‘Project MX-5’. The car became an icon for Car Throttle due to it’s simple, cute fascia and the unbelievable amounts of aftermarket mods available for it.
Attracting so much attention meant that there was a lot of traffic flowing onto the website. However, as most of the community was browsing the website through mobile phone, the hassle of having to launch the web browser, then type in the URL for Car Throttle and then login to the community didn’t really fit with the CTzens and thus have been demanding the CT mobile app since 2014. Adnan realized the demand for it and the potential of it, hired Circle Six developers for it in September and immediately put them to work. By the end of 2015, the beta version of the mobile app was up and running and was handed out to some of the staff members at first for testing. But eventually as progress was made, the call came to select a few CTzens for beta testing to collect more data for development. This was when Adnan announced that they’re looking for 5 potential CTzens to test the Android beta app. This is when I decided to opt in and drop my comment highlighting my reasons to be selected on Adnan’s post in hopes of being able to test the beta version of the app. And sure enough, in just a few hours, I got a reply from the CEO and Founder of Car Throttle confirming me to have been picked among five other users for testing the mobile app! It was genuinely a joyful experience for me to know that I would finally get to contribute and take responsibility in shaping the community.
Adnan sent a hidden link to my E-mail inbox which directed me to the Google Play Store for me to download the unreleased beta version of the app for testing. The only condition that was given to us was that we weren’t allowed to leak out any development test cycle information of the app until it’s initial release of whenever it was ready. After downloading the app, I fired it up to find the familiar feed layout of the community albeit, there were a few bugs and glitches that was causing the app to crash. Moreover, there were some features such as the sliding panel for the profile, settings and community options that could be tweaked from there. It was like having the screen shrunk and the additional UI being squeezed out of view. So to compensate, there was the sliding panel that kept most of the desktop features as is. One of the most highly requested features being the ‘Search’ bar that gave quick results based on user names, community categories or trends. It was a very highly requested feature CTzens were demanding for and it was necessary that the ‘Search’ feature functioned flawlessly on the app as well. After encountering countless bugs, glitches and errors and reporting to Adnan via e-mail, the deadline to release the app by the end of 2015 was soon fast approaching.
I’ve spent the month of November and December finding all the bugs and errors I could possibly find… reporting them to Adnan and their developer from Circle Six, George Wilson. After hours of browsing the app everyday trying to keep it away from my friends on •kik as well, the time to unveil the app was soon approaching. The +6 months and the CT app memes and jokes by this stage had gone far enough to keep the hype up. But after all these days, the wait for the app had finally came to an end. On 21st December 2015, Adnan announced the official launch of the CT mobile app for Android based devices and was now finally open for users to download it. The feedback from the community was overwhelmingly positive with the app getting a review ratings of near 5 stars on Google Play Store! The release of the mobile app saw an hoard of new users eventually join the community thanks to the level of flexibility the app offered.
Just after the release of the CT Android app, Gabor made the announcement that the team was looking to hire moderators for the community volunteering. Having no experience in moderation, I still decided to jump on the opportunity knowing that I would be able to contribute to the community in more ways than others helping build up the reputation and that I could be selected or participate in projects in the future. Having thought of that, I’ve detailed my reasons in the comment below on Gabor’s post… being an enthusiast and passionate about the community making strides, I highlighted all my attributes that would be suffice for me to be picked as a moderator. Once I had made my comment, it was only a matter of waiting nervously for a reply on whether I would be selected for volunteering.
The next morning I woke up and checked the messages on my phone… to my surprise, there was a CT notification from Gabor and an e-mail from him in my inbox confirming that I had been selected for the post of a moderator along with seven others! This was a very joy streak for me to be excited about - First, I got in touch with the staff, then I got to test he CT Android beta app and now get selected to volunteer as a moderator and regulate the community. My dad was once again over here in India taking a leave from Saudi Arabia. I showed him the e-mail and was impressed with what I had achieved, though he didn’t understood what exactly theobjectives of the job was even though I explained him it was volunteering to keep the community clean. Moreover, my dad had assumed that it would grant me some sort of pay as well… and so did I. We were asked to provide our Facebook ID and told us to join the ‘CT Moderator Squad’ Messenger group where already there were a few moderators present there before us some with familiar names such as Melons and Ben Anderson. We interacted with them and had been briefed on how to moderate and regulate the community based on the community guidelines. We wholeheartedly accepted the conditions and immediately began our work as moderators. At first, we would bring up some posts that we’d be uncertain about and refer them with our senior moderators before regulating them. But as time moved on, we soon began to understand the rules better and had eventually saturated in moderating the community a lot better. One day, I asked one of the senior moderators in the group if we would get paid for moderating… only to receive disappointment from them stating that this was just a volunteering post. I was a bit disheartened to hear that but I decided that maybe time will tell if my luck would turn around.
2016 started out with me carrying out my duties as a moderator. Above this, we were asked to brainstorm and come up with ideas for the community to engage in. At first, we would come up with random ideas to get them trending. Some caught on while others didn’t but at least we were able to get the community to engage in some ways. It was a nice feeling to know that I was a key part of the community in some ways… being able to contribute, influence and have an impact in shaping it. Then early in 2016, Gabor asked some of us moderators to get together on Skype voice call in a group to discuss about the platform and provide feedback. It was a unique experience getting to hear everyone’s opinion and feedback as to what elements of the community worked out and what didn’t and how the community can be changed and improved. And few weeks later, a new update was released based on our feedback which changed the algorithm to improve the user experience. Instead of the most popular post being at the top all the time, the feed organizes the latest and posts published by date to be on top instead. Seeing this update made me realise how the feedback we provided actually impacted the community for a better experience.
Just a month prior to launching the app, on 28 March 2016 the Car Throttle YouTube channel had it’s milestone of 1 million subscribers! A moment that I decided to capture the footage from Social Blade website of the subscriber counter hitting the 1 million mark with my Samsung Galaxy S4 mobile phone as at the time, I wasn’t aware of any screen capturing programmes nor as a gaming laptop, had screen capture feature pre-installed in it. To me, this felt like I was actually capturing history in the making and felt super proud to be a part of this community and seeing the journey I was witnessing by walking on it.
Within the first quarter of 2016, Car Throttle team hired an iOS developer to build the CT mobile app for Apple mobile market. With the beta completed within a few weeks and initially the bug testing started out with a post being made selecting a few CTzens to become a part of the development of it as well. And after the lucky CTzens were chosen, the bug testing for the iOS app had begun. The development and bug testing for the iOS app took relatively shorter period to develop and remove any bugs from it as previous experience mattered and as the layout remained the same. On 26 April 2016, Car Throttle Adnan made the announcement about the CT mobile app for iOS was finally on iTunes store. It was a much awaited utility for the iOS Apple CTzens but at last, their wishes were fulfilled. After the release of the iOS CT app, the staff had resorted to hiring new moderators. A week after the post went out, a new wave of moderators were chosen. Back in the Messenger group, me and the other moderators had been asked whom all should we select for the post of moderators. This was a great opportunity for Artur who would hang out with the ‘kik’ chat members with us in GTA Online finally became a moderator as he wanted to become a moderator for a while. He also lived near the Nurburgring and could potentially be useful to the staff in case they ever wanted to organise a meet at the Nurburgring. Based on my feedback, he was chosen alongside others such as Max, RedWattsonn, and a Polish user Szymek were chosen in the next wave of moderators who I would get to know him personally over time.
However with the new iOS app came in a new format. Gone was the community feed and was replaced by an interactive UI menu where CTzens can browse their content within any community they’d want to. There was the ‘News feed’ on top then the ‘Popular post’ under it and finally all the communities a CTzen is a part of. The same was done with the main website as well as the announcement of it was made after Car Throttle had participated in their first ever Gumball 3000 rally. The community feed was replaced by the News feed on the main page… resembling a more familiar layout design from 2012/2013. Initially, the response was met with a mixed reception and feedback but the users had agreed to embrace the change and move on.
On 14th March 2017, my wishes finally came true! This is when Adnan announced the acquisition of WTF1, a social motorsports based community website. The newly revamped website had a calendar and a timer indicating when the next F1 race was on the calendar was. This was a much needed feature for me that I had requested Adnan a long time ago as I had kept missing out so many races in the previous races and to see it finally fulfilled was just a dream come true for me! From that day on, I had rarely ever missed an F1 race in the calendar thanks to this amazing acquisition. Once again, Adnan came to the rescue of thousand of Motorsport fans and enthusiasts across the world!.
Despite the financial struggles, 2015 ended with a great turn around for me at least. With the economic crisis still looming in Saudi Arabia and my dad unemployed, my luck of being able to test and develop the Android app and become a moderator, the Car Throttle and the WTF1 community was able to put up a smile on my face even in these hard times since then.
This concludes the Part 5 of my autobiography. I apologize for making so lengthy but I wanted to get as much of my past experiences and story out as much as possible. Part 6 will be the conclusion of this autobiography with all the recent events that I have been going through in my life. And of course, the promised face reveal as well.
Thank you so much for taking your time to read my blogposts for I tend to write them with passion and enthusiasm.