Owner of Bollywood Veggies and Poison Ivy in the Kranji Countryside, Ivy Singh-Lim speaks her mind in this brutally honest interview
Living on a tiny island that’s practically invisible on the world map, no one would fault you for thinking there was a dearth of arable land in Singapore. Indeed, it’s relatively scarce – just 1% of the land, as I learnt from this encounter – and it’s a practice that yearns to be preserved by guardians unfazed by the vices stemming from materialism and competitive city living, inevitable side effects of surviving in an urban jungle like Singapore.
One such guardian – perhaps, the most resilient and notorious of them all – is a strong soul who calls herself The Gentle Warrior, and the de facto ‘Queen of Singapore’, Ivy Singh-Lim. Owner of Bollywood Veggies – 10 acres of agricultural land located in the Kranji Countryside on the Northwestern tip of Singapore – Ivy has been protecting her garden since 2000, and opens it to visitors and diners who swing by the Poison Ivy café that resides within its grounds.
Now, I’ve had the fortune of conducting countless interviews with all sorts of characters, but nothing could’ve prepared me for my meeting with the Gentle Warrior. From greeting me with a pocket knife she whipped out like a forest ninja, to letting our photographer snap money shots of her waving middle fingers (sorry, you won’t see it here), and even taking pauses in between to introduce me to her adopted stray dogs that run freely around the farm; I didn’t quite know what to expect next.
But what left the greatest impression on me was her blasé yet venomous personality, hilarious candour, and hostile social and political stances that I’ve tried my very best to transcribe in an MDA-approved manner (sorry Ivy, my neck’s on the line), In this extremely personal interview, she sheds light on the sad state of our community, the saving grace of millennials, kidnappers, and how she doesn’t give a hoot about your Instagram feed.
Here are 10 things I caught from my chat with the Gentle Warrior. I hope you’re ready.
She’s known how to use a knife since she was a kid
The story is very simple, darling. In 1949, my father was one of the biggest land-owners in this country, and back then, I grew up with servants who trained us to be armed and resilient. At the time, there were only rich landowners like my Papa, farmers, the British, and bloody kidnappers. When you went to the toilet, you had to say, “I’m going to have a piss or a sh*t”. A piss was one minute, a sh*t was two. And if you weren’t back in three minutes, it was presumed you were kidnapped. If my servant was looking after Mas Selamat [a notorious fugitive who famously escaped from imprisonment in 2010], he would never have escaped.
At 68, she is strong and beautiful
I didn’t really have to work for a living, but I was brought up to lead a useful life. My father used to tell me, “Why do you think you were born into this world?”. So every morning, I ran towards the sun, gazed at it, and asked what was to be my role in life. I would go to the bathroom, look into the mirror, take all my clothes off and tell myself, “You are beautiful and strong!”. I am 68 years old, and I still think so.
She knows her purpose in life
I think I was born to do something for my country – to make it a place where people love their home, feel happy to be here, and to ride the wave towards total enlightenment.
She feels that most Singaporeans are stuck in a rut
Singaporeans used to live an idyllic, beautiful life, until the government stepped in and turned everyone into a rat. And instead of allowing rats to have rest, they’re pushing the cage wheel faster and faster; and if this doesn’t stop, the rats will die. That’s where we are now – a non-thinking society; a system of drones and donkeys.
She almost got into politics, if it didn’t result in her incarceration
When I was 40 years old, I was gonna go into politics. But if I had done it then, Lee Kuan Yew would’ve jailed me. The universe protected me – my youngest brother had retina detachment, my father passed away, and I had to go home to run the family business instead. I considered going into it again at 50, but Lee Kuan Yew would’ve still locked me up – he was very much alive then.
Also, going into politics means you need to have a lot of energy, time, and focus. And you gotta kiss the *ss of your party leader. If I went into politics, I would’ve started my own political party. But do you know how hard it is to find nine other people with the same mentality as you??
She still has faith in Singaporeans, especially millennials
I feel that people nowadays are brought up with an enlightenment in them. They are looking for altruistic things to do; they want to do good. I think I see a great enlightenment on the horizon, especially with millennials. Take my secretary, Manda, for example – she’s a smart and rich kid, but she’s focused, and wants to do the right thing. She’s not interested in being a prostitute of the system. She’s also the secretary of the Farmer’s Association, which is helping us develop this beautiful gem called the Kranji Countryside.
That said, she really doesn’t care about your social media feed
There’s nothing wrong with being reliant on technology. But I’m a creator; I need to have a free mind to think of what’s next. I shouldn’t have my nose in a bloody computer looking at all of this rubbish.
All these women keep sending me pictures of what they eat. Who cares about what you eat? Who cares about your cat? Who cares about what mountain you’re on? I never travel anymore; you see one mountain, you’ve seen them all. They’re all sitting down doing sweet nothings, doing all this – what I call – monkey entertainment.
I get that, when you are young, you need to be tech-savvy, but you shouldn’t be on it 24/7. If you can use technology to assist your work, that’s good. But you shouldn’t let it swamp your life. It’s a disease. It’s an addiction.
She wants to turn the Kranji Countryside into Singapore’s Napa Valley
I truly see a lot of hope in this 1% of the land. To put things in perspective, 2% of our land is under golf courses, 12% is under roads, 15% is under housing, and 20% is under the army – but who is gonna attack us?? If only our stupid planners and the URA could see what Swan Valley and Margaret River are all about. If they can see that kind of potential with their mind’s eye, they will keep this 1% and make it a gem of a countryside. The Kranji countryside is critical for the survival of this country.
She doesn’t care if she hurts your feelings
If I could, I would get rid of every evil man, and every stupid woman who listens to them, here on the red dot. Women are always very anxious about what men think of them. Do I care about what my husband thinks of me? I couldn’t give a damn! I know what I am. I know what he should think about me. And if he doesn’t agree with me, he can go to hell. I don’t care about his opinion, but I care about his feelings; I try not to hurt his feelings. I’m a powerful and brave woman, and nobody tells me what to do. If you can’t understand that, too bad for you!
She thinks everyone has the potential to be a God
I wish we all had more courage; everyone always thinks about the consequences. What scares me is the total brainwashing of people, to the point where they all become stupid and succumb to rules and regulations that they have no courage to go against. All good, young people with the potential to make our country great have become frightened.
But as for me, I dare to say anything and everything ’cos I don’t give a sh*t about anyone. I am God; I can create, destroy, or I can nurture. This is what a lot of people have forgotten. When God kicked Adam and Eve out of Eden, He never removed their intelligence and ability to do what He could do – though I don’t know if God is a man or woman or whatever. In my opinion, we are all Gods.
Do you have the courage to make a difference? If you say no, I don’t agree with you.
Bollywood Veggies, 100 Neo Tiew Road, Singapore 719026, p. 6898 5001. Open Wed-Sun 8am-6.30pm, closed on Mon-Tue unless public holidays.
All images taken by our very own Aliff Tee.