She's the 'Green Lady'

She's the 'Green Lady'
Environmental crusader... Ms Bhavani giving a talk as an environmental advocate.

Chennai-born Bhavani Prakash, 44, a mother of two teenage daughters - Ananya, 19, and Lavanya, 13 - is known as a "Green Lady", as a speaker, trainer and writer, giving talks and conducting workshops on green-sustainability and various environmental issues.

"My environmental awakening happened in Singapore, so I'm really grateful to the conditions that enabled it to happen. Singapore has some precious wild spaces such as remnants of primary rainforests, old cemeteries like Bukit Brown, secondary forests like MacRitchie Reservoir, old railway tracks like the Green Corridor, to name just a few," she tells tabla!.

She says that after she moved here in 2003 with her family, she discovered the Botanic Gardens rainforest section and soon found herself volunteering as a guide.

"I'd take visitors through the rainforest area, talk about the different species of trees and plants and the ecology of the rainforest, and also sensitise people to the fragility of the ecosystem. I'd always end the walk by saying, 'So we've walked the walk, but we now need to walk the talk' and then I'd go on to give suggestions on what we need to do as individuals to protect the rainforests of the world. I guess when I eventually set up my website, the name clicked pretty easily," she exclaims on how her website came to be called Eco Walk the Talk.

Her website offers green living tips and features people who inspire with their environmental thoughts and action. It is also a platform to feature important environmental causes and campaigns in the region.

"There is a core group of environmental crusaders which has been growing over the years, and I feel like I'm an integral part of that community. Funnily enough, though I'm from India which is a large agrarian country, it is in Singapore that I became a farmer - an urban farmer, growing my own veggies and herbs using organic methods. I also run a Facebook page called Grow Your Own Food in Singapore."

Ms Bhavani holds a Master's in Financial Economics from University of London and a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from the Indian Institute of Management Kolkata. She confesses that setting up Eco Walk the Talk in 2008 helped her in integrating into Singapore.

"As an environmental advocate, what is good for the entire planet is good for Singapore. What is good for the environment is good for every human being, including Singaporeans. This broad, holistic message has been critical for my personal and professional success," she says.

"In addition, as a mindfulness trainer, compassion is an important attitude that I encourage people to train in and this is important for a diverse society like Singapore to integrate various groups of people."

Notably, Ms Bhavani won the SONY-IWA (Indian Women's Association) Woman of the Year award in March this year. It was in recognition of being a "woman of significance" contributing to community well-being. And she significantly believes friendship groups, often defined by nationality, where they tend to stick together (what social psychologists call the "similarity-attraction effect") should not be viewed as a "social handicap".

"I think it's really important to be part of different groups as well as one's own ethnic group. An all-Indian group is only one of the many, many groups that I network with. I enjoy being in that group especially to reconnect with some traditions, and to deepen my roots," she adds.

"However, it becomes a problem if we mingle only with the people of our own nationality, especially in a place like Singapore, where we have the unique opportunity to interact with people of such diverse backgrounds.

"After 11 years in Singapore, I can definitely say I have so many more Singaporean friends and those of other nationalities than from India," says Ms Bhavani who is a permanent resident.

"I've lived all over the world, from the Middle East to Europe to North America and now in Singapore. Right from the very first taxi ride from the airport when we first landed in 2003, I felt at home. I have never really felt an outsider, and sought out many friends within the green community in particular, who incidentally come from varied backgrounds even among Singaporeans, as well as varied nationalities," she adds.

She says that compared to many countries of the world "most Singaporeans are very welcoming of foreigners, from my experience".

Her advice for those looking to make Singapore their home: "My key message would be for Indians, especially expat Indians, is to seek out a variety of enriching relationships with other communities in Singapore. One good way is to volunteer in various environmental and social organisations which give one ample opportunity to interact with local Singaporeans across age groups and economic profiles, as well as other nationalities. This is sure to be a life-enriching experience."

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