It is a bitter-sweet honour to be penning this for my good friend and buddy, Mr V Subramaniam. His life and mine had intertwined for years. It is also with a great amount of irony that I am penning this. He is one of the two executors named in my will. I now end up being one of the two administrators of his estate.
Subra, as he liked to be called, will be remembered by everyone for his bright smile. For those of us who have known him since university days, we also remember him to read voraciously. There was always a book stuck to his nose. However, the book, invariably, would not be a law book. Subra, was someone who can be described as a “crammer” when it came to exams. After the first try though, he gave up borrowing my notes as my handwriting was as illegible as it is now. He would instead end up with the very tidy and neat notes of some of our female hostel mates. His bright smile and exuberant personality worked wonders with the girls, I suppose.
Although he was a “crammer” he would pass all his exams easily. That ability was a testament to his intellect, instinct for the law and the sharpness of his mind.
Subra was, like most of us from Raffles Hall, a full-time hostelite and a part-time law student. He definitely left an indelible mark in Raffles Hall. He was the Sports Secretary for Raffles Hall in the year 1993/1994. He came up with an innovative scheme which enabled Raffles Hall to come in second in the Inter-Hall Games that year. For one of the older halls that did not have the kind of facilities the newer halls were blessed with, his scheme attracted many talented sportsmen and sportswomen to Raffles Hall which, in turn, raised the standards of all the existing Rafflesians (pronounced Ra-fel-sian by denizens of Raffles Hall). We ended up only one point behind the ayam-hall that year. This was no mean feat for an older hall like Raffles and it was all down to Subra’s work as the Sports Secretary of Raffles Hall.
It was also during his stint as the Sports Secretary in the Junior Common Room Committee of Raffles Hall that he acquired his notoriously funny nickname, BB. From then on, to us, his close friends in Raffles Hall, he was simply BB and will always be fondly remembered as such. I would not want to decipher the nickname BB in this august publication, but he took to that nickname in a good natured way. As always, he had no issue laughing at himself with us.
Subra and I were the first two persons from our batch to do our pupillage. We started pupillage on the same day, 2 May 1996. We did not take a break like most of our classmates. I did it for economic reasons. He did it because he could not wait to be a lawyer. Unfortunately, we ended up, nonetheless, being called to the Bar at the same time as the rest of our classmates. We missed qualifying for the previous call date by two days (by then we had completed 178 days of pupillage out of the 180 days required). Application for abridgement was, to our dismay, summarily rejected. Both of us were totally dejected. I was dejected because I had to live off the meagre allowance of $500.00 a month for another two months. Subra was dejected because he could not become a lawyer earlier than the rest.
Once he started practice, he was literally sprinting way ahead of all of us. He would proudly declare that he had done this application or the other and how he ended up “whacking” practitioners from bigger and better known firms. He was also among the first (if not the first) persons from our class to take equity in a law firm, Leong, Goh, Danker & Subra (which is now Veritas Law Corporation). Having “made it” and, at that time, drawing the highest remuneration among us, his generosity to his friends was for all to see. Many a drunken night was fuelled by BB’s treat. He was the only one then who could afford to buy alcohol by the bottles instead of having the drinks pre-mixed in jugs.
That was the side that most of us saw.
Only the very privileged few saw the other side of Subra. Subra was a highly filial child to his parents. I remember one occasion when he invited some of his closest friends to a Deepavali party at his parents’ home. We were having a nice chat when Uncle came down from the second floor of their home. Immediately, we rose from our seats. Subra, on the other hand, rushed forward towards Uncle and just when Uncle’s feet left the final step of the staircase, Subra laid prostrate on the ground and touched his hands and forehead to Uncle’s feet. We were all shocked and amused to witness that scene unfolding before us. All of us were Chinese and we had never witnessed anything of that nature before. However, there was no hesitation at all from Subra when he did what he did. To him, his respect and filial piety to Uncle were the only things which mattered at that moment.
The importance he placed on his parents was, of course, eventually transposed to his own family. Subra is survived by his wife and three daughters. They, more than anyone else, were shocked by the passing of Subra in such a sudden manner and at the peak of his career.
To V Subramaniam, Subra, BB, my brother,
We may have had our fair share of good times and some not so good times (as brothers would tend to have off and on), but our intertwined lives are no longer so. I suppose nothing lasts forever. But throughout this journey which we shared from 1992 until it was abruptly cut short in 2021, you had never walked alone. I wish that we could have spent the twilight of our years still intertwined (with a glass of whiskey in our hands, of course) and reminisce about the past, the glory of our youth and all the funny situations we had lived through. But fate is such that it is not to be.
I shall miss you, your bright smile and your shenanigans, my dearest brother.
Titanium Law Chambers