THIRTY-ONE years ago, Ganesan A. Chinniah started out as a Cisco guard at the Istana, where he observed Lee Kuan Yew and interacted with him on occasion.
Motivated by the former prime minister's diligence, Mr Ganesan went back to school and is now a director at a multinational corporation.
The 52-year-old told My Paper that he was a Cisco guard with the Istana Security Unit from 1984 to 1992, when Mr Lee was prime minister and later senior minister.
He remembered Mr Lee as a stern man with a fantastic memory who addressed the guards by name.
"Seeing Mr Lee's dedication to hard work really motivated me to do the same," Mr Ganesan said.
According to him, Mr Lee drove himself to Sri Temasek daily to retain his driving skills, even though he had designated drivers.
Mr Ganesan was also inspired to exercise after watching the elderly statesman work out daily.
After eight years, he was transferred back to Cisco headquarters. He decided to resign and signed up for night school.
Mr Ganesan, who had only a secondary education prior to that, said: "Every Saturday afternoon, a Mandarin teacher would come to teach Mr Lee. It showed me that learning does not stop there."
He eventually got a diploma in logistics management at the Singapore Institute of Materials Management and is now a director of operations at a multinational corporation.
He was among the sea of people queueing to pay their respects to Mr Lee at Parliament House on Wednesday, accompanied by his 50-year-old wife, who is a public servant, and a friend.
"This is the only week I'm in Singapore," said Mr Ganesan, who had just returned from South Africa. "I'm travelling again next week."
He queued for two hours to pay his respects, and being there brought back many memories.
"Mr Lee acknowledged all salutes," he said. "We saluted him about 400m away and he would wave while exercising. That's what a great gentleman he is. He did not look down on people."
On one occasion, Mr Lee approached Mr Ganesan while out on his night walk with his wife, Kwa Geok Choo. He asked the then guard: "How are you? Have you taken your dinner? How's your family?"
Tearing up, Mr Ganesan said: "It was really a pleasure that a great leader asked me this."
When he finally made it into Parliament House, he was overcome with emotion.
"When I was an Istana guard, I used to cycle to work. Now I own a car and live in a five-room flat. Nothing is given to us free but you can work for it. That's the motivation that Mr Lee has given me," he said.
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