Sunday, March 4, 2012

Singapore's Poison Ivy

Whenever I write anything about Singapore, what comes before my mind first, are the tall and taller buildings, wide and well planned streets, huge shopping malls with their sparkling glass facades, latest international fashions, clothes, public discipline and cleanliness. Words like farm, untamed grasses, mud, cow- dung just cannot be associated with image of Singapore in my mind. Therefore, when a plan was being hatched in the family, in the morning, about visiting a farm and having lunch there, I just could not believe it at all.
Mumbai has a posh sea face area, known as 'Warli'. In this area, just opposite 'Nehru Planetarium', there is a group of very tall buildings, which house few huge show rooms of well known brands. Just behind these building and not far away from the beach, there used to be a restaurant called 'Village'. This actually was a very fashionable restaurant, often visited by the Glitterati of Mumbai. In one corner of this restaurant, an old bullock card was kept along with few earthen pots, to create an image of a so called village. I always felt that the whole effort appeared very poor and artificial. I hate such Pseuds and was therefore expecting something on similar lines here in Singapore as I got into the car.
As our car left our housing complex, it started raining. It never drizzles in Singapore. The rain means simply torrential rain here. Invariably, it falls so heavily, that visibility on the roads becomes almost Nil. I wondered about enjoyment of going to a farm with full of muddy roads in this kind of weather. However no one else in the car gave any importance to the rain. This almost confirmed my earlier suspicion that this so called farm was just some kind of Pseudo, air conditioned restaurant, under a disguise. But as our car left the usual Upper Thomson Road and took a road going to 'Kranji' area, I knew that this was something different.

The north-east corner of Singapore is known as 'Kranji'. A huge fresh water reservoir can be seen here in 'Kranji'. After we crossed this reservoir, we branched off to a small road, which reminded me of the old road going towards Sinhgad fort from my home town of Pune. We could see on both sides of this road thick green foliage, whose monotony was only broken by small farm houses and stables. The entire landscape was emerald green and relaxing to the eyes. . After continuing on this road for some distance, we saw an open space where 40 or 50 cars were parked. We stopped there and I got down. In front of me was a name board, made from old tree trunks and wooden planks. The board was painted green with some yellow coloured writing on it.

This primitive kind of name board told me that we have reached places known as 'Bollywood Veggies' and 'Poison Ivy'. I could make out that it was an agricultural farm and it was named as 'Bollywood Veggies'. I just couldn't make out that 'Poison Ivy' thing. As I recollected, Poison Ivy was a character from the 'Batman; film. She was supposed to have great knowledge about trees and shrubs. She however made use of her knowledge to create trouble for others. It turned out that a restaurant run in this farm, has been named as 'Poison Ivy'. This farm and the restaurant belongs to one Mrs. Ivy Singh-Lim and she has named it by partly using her name and its similarity with an animated character. Ms. Ivy Sigh's father was a Indian Rajput from Gorakhpur, Punjab. Her father was a big farmer and his liking for farming has probably percolated to his daughter. Mr. Lim, a Singaporean by birth, was the chief executive of a big Singapore corporation known as NTUC. After retirement Mr. and Mrs. Lim decided to migrate and settle in Australia. At that time they came to know about this farm being offered for sale. Initially, Lim's just could't believe that farm-lands still exist in Singapore. After they visited this place, they just loved it and decided to make an offer.

Singapore has one of the world's toughest laws regarding agriculture and animal husbandry. Sticking to the rules and regulation and many times fighting for their rights, this couple has developed this farm of 10 acres. Mrs. Ivy Singh was a sports person and has been the president of Singapore netball association. She calls herself as a farmer warrior as she has even gone to jail, while agitating against some of the unfair rules and have got them changed.

Husband and wife pair of Mr. and Mrs. Lim have developed the farm with great interest. They have grown here many fruit producing trees besides number of vegetables. They have many varieties of Banana plants alone. This is a photo stroll around the Lin farm.

Bread fruit from Africa
Coffee Tree from Java, Indonesia

Bollywood Villa

After going around the farm, we realized that all of us, including the kids, were real hungry. Naturally we changed course and reached the 'Poison Ivy' restaurant. A look at the menu card proved that this place was very extra ordinary. Except for the Chicken curry, which one can get almost anywhere in Singapore, there were no items on menu, which were even remotely recognizable. There was no choice but to consult with the staff, who gladly helped us to fix up our order. We ordered besides chicken curry, some fried Moringa tempura (tastes very much like Spinach I thought) , leafy vegetable made from sweet potato and Kangkong leaves, salad made from fresh papaya fruit and some fries. When we were served our meals, we realized that the food , though rather unknown, was very tasty. Even the leafy vegetables, which normally are a pain in the neck, just dissolved in the mouth. Encouraged by the quality of food, we decided to order lots of deserts like jack-fruit and banana cakes, Aloe Vera and Mango pudding and finally fresh ice cream.
While we were enjoying our food, Mrs. Ivy Lin made a personal appearance. It was obvious that she personally looked after the restaurant and the food service. When she found out that we were from India, she made it a point to tell us that her father was an Indian.

After a sumptuous lunch, we left for home. My mind was still under the surprise spell of having seen a real life agricultural farm in the concrete Jungles of urban Singapore. Added to that however, was an element of satisfaction for having met a truly remarkable persona like Mrs. Ivy Lim.

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