I never thought that I would be involved in political work. Being an introvert, my default mode is to keep my distance from people. Hence, I used to believe that building an academic career would suit me the most. Inside the classroom, I could always maintain a comfortable professional distance, and interaction with students was something I could keep at a minimum. For a time, the ivory tower of the academia served as my safe space, but it also made me realise how detached and isolated I had become from the issues and concerns of the real world.
It was for this reason that when I was invited to serve as executive director to the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), a regional network of liberal and democratic political parties in Asia, I saw it as an opportunity to become more immersed in the practical issues and problems that beset our communities and societies. After almost a decade teaching politics and social and political thought, being in CALD meant that I would be in the thick of things. True enough, the work allowed me to interact with many movers and shakers in Asian politics, providing me with a wealth of information that I could not otherwise find in books, journals or the internet. The experience made me understand the gravity of issues and problems in the region, and how their possible resolution entails more active involvement and participation. Authoritarian governments, political persecution, violation of fundamental human rights are issues that just do not go away on their own. They have to be fought — in the parliament, in the courts, and even in the streets, if needed.
CALD, therefore, is not only my political awakening. It is also my awakening to the cause of freedom.