Confession of a lawyer who went from hero to speed zero

This story was first published in My Paper on June 4, 2014

The man that rivals feared and clients pinned their hopes on has a confession to make.

"I got all my priorities wrong," says prolific criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan, now 66 and looking gaunt, at his Leonie Hill home.

"I spent too much time in my life chasing after fame and recognition," he told My Paper, his piercing gaze trained somewhere in the distance.

And as regrets go, he has one that goes decades back - the excessive drinks, the cigarettes, and all the stress that resulted in his dire state of health.

A few months ago, Mr Subhas found out that he was suffering from kidney failure. He has had heart failure from 2008.

"It was drastic, sudden. If I was going at 120 miles/h, I am at 0 now. But I am starting again," said the man who has always had a thing for fast cars.

He now goes for dialysis thrice a week. It leaves him tired and, from a robust 81kg, his weight has fallen to 64kg. "I have to wear all sorts of belts to keep my pants up," he said.

Sipping on a mixture of Perrier, water and lemon in an effort to satisfy a palate now used to Coke Zero and juices, he thanks his doctors at Singapore General Hospital.

Lying on a bed in the intensive care unit in hospital, not knowing whether he was going to live or die, he "cried a lot", he said.

And the reason? "Sometimes, you have no more strength to control your emotions." But he is no stranger to the hospital.

He has had three heart attacks since 1978, and lost one kidney to cancer in 2001. He also has diabetes, and blocked intestines.

But it was in 2008, before he was wheeled into the operating theatre, that he thought he was on his death bed.

He called his son, Sujesh, then 18, and told him to listen to his mother, and always to be with her.

Next, he called his wife, Vimala. He told her: "I see your face in every rose. I see your smile in every cloud."

And without another word, he succumbed to anaesthesia.

When he recovered, he was able to joke with his wife. "You always said I wasn't romantic. But when I thought I was dying, I was romantic."

While he was able to laugh over it, he said it was not funny then.

Mr Subhas, who had always liked his drinks and his cigarettes, gave up smoking in 1997, when he saw his son's face as he was being wheeled into the operating theatre. Sujesh was seven then.

He thought: "This boy, I brought him to earth. Is this how I am going to treat him?"

His son is now in his first year reading law at the University of Nottingham, after studying finance in a polytechnic here.

But the decision to pursue both finance and law was entirely Sujesh's choices, because his father wanted him to do what made him happy.

It was a lesson Mr Subhas learnt in his own youth. His mother had "bundled" him off to India to study medicine. After three months, he returned to Singapore, homesick and disinterested.

And, till today, he is not interested in travel. Home is where his heart is, he said.

Now he spends his weekends dictating his second book - to his wife - going to the Holy Tree Temple where he is the chairman of the board of trustees, and spending time with his family.

The book, tentatively titled It's Easy To Cry, is about his legal and medical experiences. His first book was titled The Best I Could, about his colourful legal career.

Mr Subhas says he is not afraid of death because he believes he has done "more good than bad".

But the traumatic experience did bring some fresh perspective.

"I saw my wife, my son, my nephews holding my hand. I thought: 'I am so lucky to have these people with me.' I told myself that if I ever recover from this, I'd spend more time with them, in the last few years of my life.

"If I get a few years."

This story was first published in My Paper on June 4, 2014

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