MALAYSIA - It's way past dinner time and Karpal Singh has just finished seeing clients for the day at his legal firm in Pudu.
Wheelchair-bound since an accident eight years ago, Karpal has a bell which he rings when he's ready to see the next person or needs assistance. His clients are everyday folk, although only the big names he represents make the news.
Despite the long hours, the maverick lawyer who turns 73 this year, is relaxed, the fiery tiger eyes that flare on ceramah stages and in court appear warm and kind. He smiles easily, has a wicked sense of humour and confesses to being a doting grandfather to his 11 grandchildren.
"Nothing compares to the feeling of going home to hugs from my grandchildren. No doubt, I am a much better grandfather than I was a father because I spend more time with my grandchildren," Karpal shares during an interview with Sunday Star. "It was not by choice that I had to be away from home so much when my five children were growing up. But I had to work hard so that I could send them abroad to study."
His biography Karpal Singh: The Tiger of Jelutong hit the bookstores two weeks before its official launch on Sept 7. By Sept 1, it was already on the number two spot of the MPH Mid Valley Megamall 'Bestsellers' list for non-fiction.
"I hear the book is also a best-seller in Singapore. I did not expect this much interest," he says.
The Tiger of Jelutong is a nickname the veteran politician gained during his years as a vociferous Member of Parliament (MP) for Jelutong, a Penang seat he held on for two decades. Interestingly, the intimidating moniker stuck even after the DAP stalwart was defeated in Jelutong in 1999. Today, Karpal is the MP for Bukit Gelugor.
"People are afraid to approach me thinking I'm serious and fierce. I'm not sure how the image came about but I suppose it's good because my opponents seem to fear me. No point in having a friendly tiger because otherwise, all you have is a toy," says a bemused Karpal, looking every bit the distinguished gentleman in his usual crisp white shirt and black suit.