Paradise on Earth

Who would think of opening an organic farm in ultra-urbanized Singapore? Ivy Singh-Lim was the can-do visionary who saw the potential in the Kranji countryside, and Singaporeans’ need for a more holistic relationship with their natural environment. In 2001, she and her husband Lim Ho Seng set about turning their 10 acres into an “integrated resort.” Now Bollywood Veggies boasts not only of a fantastic variety of local plants, but also of a great diversity of animal life – birds, fish, frogs and snails, even a dog or two. The on-site restaurant Poison Ivy Bistro serves up a delicious menu of healthy options. While you are waiting for your banana curry, you can visit the Food Museum and educate yourself on the history of food culture.

When SP visited one Sunday morning, families, couples and bicyclists were enjoying breakfast in the bistro and buying veggies from the market stall. Animating the entire place was the larger-than-life personality of its owner, Ivy Singh-Lim. She kindly gives SP the interview below.

 

banchha1

 

SP. Why does Singapore need Bollywood Veggies?

ISL. Bollywood Veggies is paradise – it offers education, entertainment, energy and enlightenment all in one. Singaporeans need a place in their own country to go back to nature, seek solace, see that there is another side to life than chasing money and learn how to respect the land and other people again.

 

SP. How did you decide to set up “Paradise on Earth”? What personal motivations drove you?

ISL. I was going to move to Perth in 2000, then my best friend’s husband died. When we found out there was farmland for tender in Singapore, my husband and I decided to start a farm and return here. I wanted to do something useful for the community in my retirement years and the farm has been a vehicle for that – through it, we now host school groups and families and the entire Kranji countryside has also been rejuvenated and uplifted.

 

SP. On the farm you are known as “the Gentle Warrior.” What is your warrior philosophy? How did you come to hold such views?

ISL. My father is a rajput – from the line of warriors. I am the Gentle Warrior because I protect, I don’t attack. I protect goodness in the face of gods, governments and ghosts, and I believe that people should live by their conscience and not be afraid of those three Gs. Everyone should embrace the fourth G in them – the Gentle Warrior.

 

SP. The farm website says that there are plans to develop a hotel for nature lovers. Whom does the hotel hope to attract? What will the hotel offer to its guests?

ISL. We hope to build the Circle of Life, which will have a hotel/hostel for nature lovers. There are so many bird watchers, cyclists and morning walkers on weekends – the hotel would offer them a simple yet beautiful place to stay so they can catch the countryside early and at its best.

 

SP. Singapore is celebrating its 50th year of independence this year. What are your hopes and dreams for Singapore in the next 50 years?

ISL. I hope Singapore will go from good to great – that we will become not just a more thinking, critical and just society, but also a more giving, gracious and grateful one.

 

Ivy and Finger Bananas

Ivy Singh-Lim

 

All photos are provided by courtesy of Bollywood Veggies.

 

About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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