At the age of six, Mr Subhas Anandan was asked by a teacher if he was a hooligan.
Not knowing the meaning of the word, he said yes.
He and a friend had got into a fierce fight with two class monitors who were terrorising other students.
When the teacher confronted him, he did not lie.
He was slapped by the teacher but it was worth it - the class monitors were stripped of their positions and the bullying stopped.
His childhood years - growing up at the British naval base in Sembawang with four siblings, surrounded by gangsters and inspiring teachers at Naval Base School - would shape him for the rest of his life.
The promising student, who went to Raffles Institution and then studied law at the University of Singapore, wanted to become a policeman at first.
He did not want to go to university because of the travelling time but relented after his father, a clerk who insisted that all his children make it to university, bought him a car.
Shortly after he was called to the Bar in 1971, he represented a neighbour in his first murder case, which he eventually lost.
The young lawyer was crushed but the neighbour, who was sentenced to hang, told him to continue defending other people.
Mr Subhas, who would go on to become Singapore's most famous criminal lawyer, wrote in his book, The Best I Could: "It was a tragic end to my first case, but I took consolation in the fact that I knew it would be the start of an exciting career in criminal law."
Known for his photographic memory, the no-nonsense lawyer soon gained a reputation for representing some of Singapore's most notorious murderers, such as Anthony Ler and Leong Siew Chor, the man behind the Kallang body parts murder.
Two seasons of the documentary The Best I Could, based on Mr Subhas' most memorable criminal cases, have been shown on TV.
His early days as a lawyer were blighted by one of his darkest periods. He was jailed for nine months under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act in 1976 after he was accused of being a gangster.
His time in prison was torture as Mr Subhas suffers from claustrophobia. He had always insisted that the charge was fabricated by rogue policemen.
The stresses of his job also took a toll on the self-confessed hard drinker and chain smoker.
He had had three heart attacks since 1978, and lost one kidney to cancer in 2001. He also had diabetes and blocked intestines.
But Mr Subhas was a fighter.
In his book, he wrote: "Perhaps it's my track record that makes me a sort of magnet for accused people from all walks of life... I fight for my clients till I've exhausted all possible legal avenues and usually myself in the process."