SINGAPORE - As a journalist just beginning to cut my teeth in the world, I had the rarest of opportunities to interview Mr Lee Kuan Yew for the book Hard Truths.
I remember the feeling of dread when I first met him, a man with a reputation of ripping into people who opposed him. As an idealistic and naive fresh graduate, I knew I was highly vulnerable.
But I survived the first few encounters. And as the interviews progressed, I gained more courage to ask him questions, sometimes taking views that I knew he opposed, sometimes asking deeplypersonal questions I hoped would shed more light into his personality and character.
One moment that is still etched in my mind, was when I asked if he had ever felt like giving up.
It must have been tiring and frustrating dealing with the criticisms to what he believed in constantly, I thought, and to have challenges placed in front of him time and time again.
The room fell silent, as he clenched his fists, his eyes locked upon me.
"The more we're being tested, the more I have to be around to make sure we pass the test. This is a life-long commitment," he said.
His voice quiet but firm, his fist pounded the table, and a fire burned deep in his eyes. He was 86 then.
I felt a shiver through my body after he spoke. It was not in fear, but because his words had such force and purpose behind them.