Forest Inside A Metropolis

Have you ever come across a forest inside a city? If not, here is one. A civil engineer by profession, a 60-year-old Chennai man has set up a mini forest in his house.


Jaswant Singh in his 'Forest House'. Nivetha / NSOJ

Nivetha C

Have you ever come across a forest inside a city? If not, here is one. A civil engineer by profession, a 60-year-old Chennai man has set up a mini forest in his house. Known as ‘Green House’ or ‘Forest House’ by those living close by, one can feel the fresh air along with the earthy smell of plants and trees in the house. "This is not a one-man show. After seeing my house, our neighbours also have started terrace gardening. Now the idea is slowly spreading. This is a collective effort to increase greenery in the community," the civil engineer said.

His ‘Forest House’ is a place for natural relaxation for anyone who wants a break from the hectic urban life. Using organic fertilizers for the plants, and solar panels to generate electricity; practising beekeeping to harvest honey; and cultivating fruits and vegetables at home, this house stands out as an example of sustainable living.

Coming from a Punjabi family, Mr. Jaswant Singh has been a resident of Mogappair, Chennai, for almost 40 years. Owing to his interest in gardening as a teenager, he started collecting indigenous varieties of plants across the country. His mini forest now has more than 1000 varieties of plants and trees with medicinal values. Asked about his motive behind this setup, "At the age of 19, I realized the importance of oxygen and how there was no machine in this world that could produce oxygen. The only producer of oxygen is nature," he said. "My journey towards gardening started with one Tulasi plant which then multiplied."

It took 35 years for Mr. Jaswant Singh to setup his ‘Forest House’. Having a broader knowledge about the medicinal values of plants, he suggests that everyone plant Seeni Tulasi (said to be 250 times sweeter than sugar) which can be used as an alternative to sugar.

"Educational institutions should teach students about the value of nature," Mr. Singh said when asked about the challenges he faced in adapting to this lifestyle. "Initially my family didn't understand the need to change the way of living. Once they realized the importance of oxygen and nature, they started to support me." Apart from gardening, he also practises apiculture (bee hiving) with three varieties of bees and has a separate space for it. Talking about sustainable living and saving the resources of nature, Mr. Singh said he had installed water sprinklers to save a large amount of water. He has also installed solar panels to generate electricity.

"I learnt from my mistakes. No one was there to educate me on the kind of plants that were suitable for our weather conditions. I wasted a lot of money on chemical fertilizers as well," he said. Now he converts organic waste into fertilizers.

Mr. Jaswant Singh believes that people should understand that nature is the ‘finest doctor’.

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