Sunday, 4 September 2016

A study in the woods

On an unassuming detour from the winding road to Lansdowne lies a hamlet that the locals call Dura. It eludes the map, hiding bashfully under canopy.

Sunset at Dura
Having hiked for miles into the woods further from the village, we came upon a clearing where the path forked. What was once a majestic cedar tree lay fallen across a bed of leaf-fossils and tufts of grass.
Boulders, large and small, squatted on both sides of the tree, paying their respects to it in haunted silence. The air was drowsy, dissolving into its own motionless stupor. Time itself stood at the fork, lost in indecision.

And then, to brighten the mood, a youthful breeze glided in joyfully from the valley below, bringing with it a hint of mist, shaking the solemn trees out of their mournful trance. With the stillness gone, birds and crickets began to tweet and chirp, in perfect sync to the mist gushing through the trees and their shadows chasing after it.
Somewhere from afar, a faint tinkle of bells was heard as mountain goats must have welcomed the breeze in their midst, inviting their friend to partake of the rich spread on the turf.
The boulders, unimpressed by all this, sat there stoically, wise in their moorings, having seen these little episodes enact themselves for millions of years by now.

My attention returned to the fork in due time. A sprightly young boy, discernibly from the village, had told me that the path on the right led to a secluded waterfall. One that only the locals knew of. The path was the narrower of the two, and snaked its way slightly uphill, further and further away from the spoils of civilisation. As I made progress, the grass grew longer and closed in on the path. An abandoned cemetery slumbered peacefully by the wayside. I wondered what its spirits would do to pass time when the weather wasn't spooky.

With every twist and turn of the path, the distant sound of the jharna emanated slowly from the deep. There's a whole lot of life in the word jharna, in the way it sounds when one pronounces it - A musical onomatopoeia that conjures up an image of a rollicking mountain stream as it cascades through rocks; and an excited crowd of green foliage crane their necks to have a better view at the parade as it drifts downhill.
Yours truly immersed in the yogic technique of pool-asana

It was truly a find - a waterfall shaped like a horse's tail. It slid over a gorge formed through a rock, and emptied into a clear pool. Not to plunge into the pool or soak under the thick curtain of falling water would have been rude to the hospitality of the forest itself. So we obliged, splashed about, swam and meditated for hours. The mist then gathered into clouds and it began to drizzle. It was time to repair townward.

On the way back, we spotted an empty bottle of whiskey and some plastic wrappers of chips outside the cemetery. The ghosts must have been having a gala time, I thought. Perhaps the afterlife had in store for them yet another bottle for the after-party.

But it was not until the lyrics of, "DJ waale babu mera gaana chala do...", rippled across from somewhere nearby, that my opinion of ghosts improved considerably.
I mean, here was a group of frenzied spirits, mixing madly with the mist and making merry and what-not! But more encouragingly, its womenfolk had a voice of their own to request DJs (who for some reason are babus), for music tracks even from the beyond! Elated, I buried my grave concerns of facebook feminism right there in the cemetery, enormously comforted in the idea that the other side of the veil had it all figured out.

Suddenly and without warning, a selfie-stick popped out of nowhere on the forest path, as if the cemetery had decided to operate a toll gate for souls to pass. As the flash went off, we came face to face with a group of homo sapiens urbana assoholicaa species of Party Animals from the city who are of a markedly assoholic disposition.
They happened to be the real force behind the spirited wails of DJ walle babus being invoked in the Garhwal forests. I also realised to my dismay that the spirits of the cemetery had been asleep all this time, and the elevating mental images of their progressive utopia withered away.

Like a zoologist who had struck gold, I watched the party of homo sapiens urbana assoholica with wide-eyed interest, and made some quick observations on the fauna:

The members of the species have a human origin. They were dressed in flashy, flamboyant attire that stood out starkly against the sober backdrop of the woods. The chromatic allure of the Bird-of-Paradise and the Scarlet Macaw pale in comparison. Unbeknownst to them, the prowling man-eater of the Jim Corbett National Park had already spotted the colourful urbana assoholica from faraway, when the mist had cleared for a few minutes in between.

Group behaviour:
When the selfie-stick was retracted, whistles and howls filled the air, and loud guffaws followed. The members of the species then exchanged the choicest expletives, and called into question each others' parental legitimacy. Whistles, howls and guffaws filled the air again. This behaviour showed repetitive tendencies.

The brash cry of the urbana assoholica that jars the quiet forest and sends little animals retreating into their shells, is how the species marks its territory. It also marks territory by leaving a trail of empty alcohol bottles and plastic food packaging, but the loud cries are foremost a fight for dominance.
Nocturnal gatherings with speakers blaring party music into the hills have, in fact, brought Himalayan boulders out of their deep meditative state, dislodging them from penance, causing landslides and avalanches. Silent reflection intimidates the assoholica.

Natural habitat and migratory behaviour:
The city is what the urbana assoholica considers as its home. The species migrates for short durations that surprisingly coincide with weekends.
While some philosophers describe this migratory habit as 'Travel' and 'Soul-searching', the average assoholica aims for mere physical displacement of its own living room conditions. It builds a bubble of the city around it, and carries it wherever it goes, unable to face any other habitat for what it is.

Why then this migratory behaviour at all, one may ponder.
Well, the journey to the forest offers an unobstructed means to dissipate a certain existential angst for the urbana assoholica, a psycho-biological phenomenon closely understood in relation to musth exhibited by male wild elephants. A release is sought from the harsh inanities of city life, which is dissipated into the great wild. Unlike the unpredictable course of the jharna in the forest, the chronicled moments of dissipation predictably flood social media.

As the mist gathered again over the skies and the western horizon broke into a palette of crimson, peach and gold, I whispered to the leader of the species that tigers are known to be at large in the vicinity. That the cemetery is built to the memory of those who, while forgetting to respect the forest, were mauled by the striped cat of Jim Corbett.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Cities of the new millennium: Exhibit A

In the vast course of human history, great cities have risen and fallen.
Glorious cities have often faded away into senility - gradually, elegantly. Some of them continue to live on as museums of the past, reminiscing in their own varied layers of nostalgia. Others, reinventing themselves to cope with the times.

And then there are cities that have died quickly and were swept off the face of the earth in one go. 
Wars, or for that matter, Nature's Fury, come to mind. Harappa, Mohenjodaro and Pompeii, among other great cities, suddenly ceased to exist.

But never were cities built overnight. Rome clearly wasn't, going by the popular adage.

And so, the Human Race, having discovered answers to life's greatest puzzles and thoroughly bored with itself, found a new challenge to brace up to - 
"A city shall be built overnight, and thou shalt be named Gurgaon!"

That's it! That's how, a millennium or two from now, the story of Gurgaon's origins will be told. A bit too melodramatic, perhaps, but I think that would make it intriguing- Nature had always been unleashing her Fury on Man, and it was payback time!

Let's examine how the experiment has fared till now.
Gurgaon today is largely composed of the following:
(a) huge glassy buildings that house offices,
(b) traffic snarls
(c) malls and daaru thekas
Every evening, its residents move from (a), through (b), to (c), before disappearing from public view,  - the concept of public view itself being cognate with traffic snarls.

I have been living in Gurgaon for almost a year now. The public life I have been exposed to has been fascinating. In my daily commute to work, I have experienced several instances where we almost act like a society, in the way residents exchange pleasantries and help each other out.

For instance, there were a couple of times when the cab driver and I needed to ask for directions. You see, the city's road layout is dynamic. The same road that leads to a junction on one day may run into a wall on another, leaving commuters bewildered. In such circumstances, it is only natural to ask bystanders for directions, as one doesn't budget for walls to prop up around corners unannounced.

It is because of the road layout changing itself every now and then that road directions in the city have a subjective quality about them. Directions are more in the nature of opinions, and are open to interpretations. One can embark on philosophical debates on subjects such as, "Which way to Sector 29 market?", and still find a shade of grey within which one's view is justified. There are no wrong answers. I have gone from pillar to post, and wall to wall, navigating the city, discovering routes, and in the process appreciating the plural nature of existential truths.

I also strongly suspect that the following advertisement was filmed in Gurgaon:
A chap who has lost his way enquires as to how he can get to the Maruti Suzuki service station, and the four helpful blokes point in different directions. This is probably because they didn't want to come across as ignorant schmucks unhelpful citizens despite knowing that the truth is sublime and multi-faceted.

Even though residents of the city are conversant with such abstruse concepts, Gurgaon brims with pragmatic energy. The source of energy is, of course, the Sun, who generously heaps a lot of it in the summers. The shiny glass buildings reflect the beams of sunlight to each other, as though the roads of Gurgaon were ping-pong tables.

In fact, through my sharp sense of inference, I have deduced that it is the very same solar energy that causes traffic snarls. How, you might wonder. Allow me to explain.
Because of its abundance, the solar energy is absorbed by people in large amounts. Since each driver on the road is left with a massive surplus of it, he chooses to dissipate the same by flooring the accelerator pedal with the foot, converting it into kinetic energy that propels his vehicle forward.
If he's stuck in a jam and unable to move his vehicle, the same procedure is followed, except that it is with the horn button this time, and sound energy is released in an explosion of sorts.
You see, it is crucial to understand that the excess energy must be dissipated one way or the other. If neither produces the desired result, people leave their vehicle seats and go out to greet each other.

"Ha! But that doesn't explain the traffic chaos during the rains", you quip, referring to the stray showers that chance upon the arid land for a few days in a year, and the vehicular congregation that ensues on the roads.
A cursory analysis reveals that in such situations, there are two types of entities on the road -
(i) shiny metallic vehicles
(ii) muddy water
Exactly 50% of the entities listed above know where they are going, and I am not going to say which. Let's just say that the fellow in charge of building the drainage systems had an egalitarian approach to hydrology.

And malls. They are simply everywhere. There are more malls than policemen, and more daaru thekas than malls. This is the stuff of statement problems in 3rd grade mathematics in school. Kids and economists alike, must be applying themselves at the moment, calculating the ratios and proportions.

Gurgaon is in a continuous state of inorganic growth, much like a newborn cub suddenly finding itself to be a fully-grown beast, not caring for a sense of identity yet. Well, the millennium has only just started.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Soulkadi and self-discovery: A biketrip - Part 1

Sometime in 1999, on a rainy weekend afternoon, X and his mother were re-organizing a bookshelf in their house. Among several ancient books of what belonged to his grandfather's time, or possibly even older, he chanced upon a very old atlas - a gift of Space that had travelled through Time.

Flipping through its dog-eared pages, X spotted Czechoslovakia. Unable to pronounce the name despite several attempts, he quietly slunk away to West Germany, jumped over the Berlin Wall over to East Germany, proceeded to the USSR, turned south and crossing the Gobi desert, surmounted the Himalayas and set foot on Punjab's green-and-revolving soil.
All the travelling had wearied him out, and he badly needed some sea breeze. Without further ado, he flew to Bombay, with the prospect of idling away some time at Juhu beach.

So, he ran his finger along the western coast of India, trying to land safely on that gigantic metropolis of the West. Air traffic had always been a problem at Bombay airport, and chances of getting the runway clear were always uncertain. As a result, he overflew south by a hundred miles or so and then....and then something on the map caught his eye! He couldn't believe it at all!

If he had rubbed his eyes at the time, or opened his mouth a lot wider, it would have created a more dramatic effect, no doubt. But this was no time to waste on such antics. So he merely gave the map a closer look - There was a place on the atlas that showed his very name, "X", on the western coast of India. Wow! What were the odds, really! Wouldn't it be great to go there one day... "X goes to X", he fancied.

And now, twelve years after deserting his imaginary aeroplane over Bombay's skies, X landed at Nashik instead. And on Diwali day (D-day, if you will), "X" and two of his pals, embarked upon the biketrip of their lifetime to "X".

A biketrip of 'self-discovery'.

The answer to the trivia of "X", in case you are still wondering, is "Shrivardhan!"
There's a Konkan village by this name, with a beautiful beach to its credit. It pleases the heart that thousands of people know of this beautiful village, a popular weekend getaway from Mumbai and Pune.

It was on the 26th of October that we started for the journey. We were 5 in all, 3 men and 2 machines, to mention nothing of the compass, the map and the old memory. Our plans at the time of cranking our engines were outlined as follows:
1) Leave Nashik for Shrivardhan via Matheran
2) Enough said. Hit the road!
 Thus started our 781 km long bike-trip. We rode out on to NH-3, the Agra-Mumbai Expressway, and glided blissfully on the polished tarmac, negotiating the beautifully banked curves of the Kasara Ghats. With the monsoonal clouds having just left the picture, the brilliant golden sunlight tore open the blue skies to beam down upon the autumnal mountains textured in shades of fading green. All this, with the wind blowing in your face and the tarmac sailing past inches below your feet, to say nothing of the distant hum of the engine at constant throttle and the suspension snoring away to sleep, was how it all began.

Occasionally, we would stop for fuel - petrol or chai, as the case may be. At Shahpur, the GPS was unfurled, if I may use the expression, and we headed for Matheran. This stretch of road was mostly broken-highway cutting across agricultural landscape. There were quite a few rivers and bridges on this route, some of them particularly big ones, with the river flowing far below. And then, there were brief spells where the road got pretty rough and we had to dodge potholes adroitly all along. Reached Matheran by late afternoon.

Matheran is supposedly Asia's tiniest hill station. Being a pedestrian zone, one can get to Matheran only either by foot, toy-train or horseback. We parked our bikes and walked along the toy-train track to the village 3 km uphill, trying to elude tourist guides and ghodawallahs. The trek along the narrow-gauge railway had its share of valley-views to offer. We checked in into a cottage alongside the track and decided to spend the rest of the day at Matheran, catch the sunrise from Sunrise Point the next day and leave Konkanwards.

What followed was, we pottered around a bit in the market's handicraft shoppes, helping ourselves to chikkis, starfruit and a jar of mango-fudge. Diwali was being celebrated with lamps adorning the houses. A group of mischievous kids went about setting off crackers near unsuspecting tourists. We retired for the night, and instead of us visiting Sunrise Point the next day, the Sun himself did us an honour and visited our cottage, when we rose by around 8 a.m.

Essentially, Matheran is a village hidden amongst trees. But for the little market near the train station that flaunts cobbled streets, the rest of Matheran is tucked away secretively in the woods. The 'streets' of Matheran are really forest paths. As you stroll along one of these paths, under the canopy of dense trees, you would come across unassuming signboards partially hidden in the undergrowth, bearing colonial names such as 'Belle Vue' and 'Kragie Burn'.
The entire place sits on a hill overlooking valleys on 3 sides, and is dotted by viewpoints with several names. We had our breakfast of chikkis at Monkey Point. Speaking of Monkey Point, Matheran is infested with monkeys. Monkeys on the railway track, monkeys on rooftops, little monkeys bursting crackers...

We started from Matheran in the afternoon and set off down the slopes. We thought that if we could reach Alibag beach by around 5 pm, we could ride along the Beach Highway, watching the Sun go down into the sea.

The ride from Matheran to Alibag was most enjoyable. Here's quoting Robert Pirsig from his book, 'Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance:'

"Twisting hilly roads are long in terms of seconds but are much more enjoyable on a cycle where you bank into turns and don’t get swung from side to side in any compartment. Roads with little traffic are more enjoyable, as well as safer. Roads free of drive-ins and billboards are better, roads where groves and meadows and orchards and lawns come almost to the shoulder, where kids wave to you when you ride by, where people look from their porches to see who it is, where when you stop to ask directions or information the answer tends to be longer than you want rather than short, where people ask where you’re from and how long you’ve been riding."

We managed to get to Alibag by sundown. But, it turned out that we couldn't honour this appointment with the Sun either, and he had to content himself with setting without our company. We rode on, planning to halt at the next village for the night. The road from Alibag to Kashid was alive with Diwali celebrations. Little diyas flickered on with their tiny lights on our left, and waves flirted with the beach sands on our right, as we rode south on that moonless night.

(more miles to be munched...)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Blog revival attempt: Nashik

Long, long ago, a divine prince from Ayodhya, accompanied by his chaste wife and loyal brother, clocked in at Nashik for about 14 years. Legend has it that this stay at Nashik, some call it exile, was purely at the whim of the former's step-mother who insisted that he undertake an extended outbound training programme (OBT) in the jungle.

One day, along came Surpanakha, wandering through the woods, lost in romantic frenzy, her heartstrings twanged by the forest's rhapsody and birdsong. Smitten by the handsome prince, she proposed matrimony to him pronto; without bothering to 'look him up' first and completely ignoring the possibility that he could  be already-married. Of course, matrimonial websites were not in vogue in those days, neither were social networks. One sympathises with the lady in question regarding such anachronistic aspects.
But alas, her ill-timed haste unleashed fury in the prince's brother: He promptly sent her back to Lanka with a quick nosejob, swording off the respiratory organ.

"History's first documented nosejob", if one may claim so.
Skeptics refute this claim, notable among them being an ex-Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, who had earlier highlighted credibility issues of the said prince's engineering acumen, and now calls into doubt, his brother's medical/surgical skills... I digress...

Anyway, the nosejob is what gave Nashik its name, but it is not what I'm driving at, mind you. What puzzles me is this:  If such a place on earth could blind a lady into a lethally romantic trance, causing her to make such tactless moves, then clearly, History lacks a first-hand travelogue on Nashik from her part.

A couple of appreciative verses on Nashik could have been expected from Fa Hien or Hiuen Tsang, the 2 Chinese travellers whose names our history textbooks are awash with. But sadly, it looks like they missed it out on their itinerary, blame it on their emperor's frugal travel budget sanction or their measly Outdoor Duty Allowance or whatever. Experts are still probing the subject, in case you were wondering.

Another intriguing thing is, Fa Hien seems to be so well-known in India. In his home country, China, however, people are disposed to draw blank faces at the mention of his name. Fa Hien's vivid travelogues on India and lively depictions on the culture and life of its people have immortalised him here. One supposes that his praises of a foreign land were not very well-received at home. I mean, who is to say... if one digs through Chinese history, one might unearth travelogues on China by Indian travellers like a Sankaran Kutty, or for that matter, an Amit Travelwallah. One ponders at the plausibility.

Seeing that I have digressed yet again (and that you, the hon. reader, are still here on this page) I shall make another attempt at a birdie on the topic, and thereby, a feeble attempt to fulfill Fa Hien's mission and establish my rightful place in history

So, as I mentioned somewhere in the middle of those rants, Nashik is indeed a beautiful place, with its pleasant climate, typical bazaars and galis, charming people, lush green vineyards, mighty hills and indefatigable autorickshaws fitted with Dolby® Digital Surround EX™ and also about 15 fully-grown adults.

Having said so much about Nashik in just one sentence, let me proceed to tell you that for the last 9 months, I have shied away from updating this forgotten blog of mine because of the fabulous weekend bike-trips we, my friends and self, have been having.
Starting with late-winter, our weekend bike-trips have spanned across spring and summer and are currently in their monsoon phase. Unlike in Kerala or elsewhere in the tropics, a change of season can completely change the colour of the landscape in these parts, both literally and figuratively. Our explorations of the local geography have been highly gratifying.

The countryside to the north, west and south of Nashik is bejeweled with mighty hills, rolling meadows, a wealth of lakes and dams and vineyards. The shade of vegetation goes from green-brown in late-winter to golden-brown at the peak of summer, occasionally dotted by vibrant colours of bougainvilleas, coral jasmines and palash flowers that blossom in the spring.
As one trudges along the winding roads, one might see bullock carts loaded with produce; fields of sunflower, cabbage and tomato; pumpkin cartons lying about for collection, women huddling around a village well, artfully balancing colourful plastic pots on their waists; a little boy herding playful goats; horses grazing on the dry turf; taxis stuffed with villagers in every possible nook and cranny; children rushing out after their mid-day meal at school, gaily welcoming the man who brings them cotton candy on a bicycle; or even an old man waiting all by himself at a bus-stop, revealing his skinny legs, making one wonder how he manages the strength to stand at all.

Come monsoons, and this land turns magical. If one could imagine a wand being waved over the place, transforming the place from golden to velvet green as it sweeps, that would be it. Except for the fact that mist sails into the picture, adding that finishing touch to the portrait.
Riding in the rains is, no doubt, a most relaxing pastime. The sheer spread of greenery would work wonders in uplifting your spirit, to mention nothing of the exhilarating valley views, monsoonal waterfalls that garland whole hillocks, secretive mountain-tops that hide amidst the mist, lakes that resemble unpolished sapphires in the clouded sunlight, the rollicking breeze that showers you with its play-pearls and the mere bliss that arises from hearing the pitter-patter of rain and the raw smell of the earth!

If it were not for the ghastly Aloo preparations that occasionally bring about great intestinal suffering, Nashik is a beautiful town to live and revel in. There's a wonderful charm to the place.
What would life be without the Western Ghats, I often wonder!

Credits: The possibility of an Indian traveller, 'Sankaran Kutty', sent abroad as an ambassador was originally suggested by Shrijith V Nair during one of our many intellectual discourses on nothing-in-particular

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Of taps & flushes

Our family trip to Delhi & Manali turned out to be successful. Highly satisfying, in fact. Exactly the kind of trip whose wondrous moments get etched in your memory. Manali is a most beautiful place: apple-orchards, snow-capped peaks, pahari people, pine slopes, splendid castles, exhilarating views, steep gorges, green meadows and what not! We thoroughly enjoyed the holiday, especially the part where we rented a couple of bikes and set about exploring the mountains! (Click here for the snaps)

The only disappointment, perhaps, was that we couldn't make it to the snow point at Rohtang Pass, thanks to landslides that blocked the roads (or what is left of them). Turned out to be Rohtang Fail, i guess...sigh! Well, next time, maybe.

The return trip to Delhi was by bus and it changed a lot of things. Put a lot of things into perspective. The bus being a semi-sleeper had reclining passenger seats. I heartily applaud the fellow who came up with the name 'semi-sleeper'; the search for a more precise term would prove unnecessary. In simple language, it means that for approximately one half of the travel time, the passenger is in a state of sleep, while for the other half, he is continuously & vigorously shaken out of it.

The reasons are many. I strongly suspect that some prankster had left the driver thinking he was being secretly monitored to qualify for the World Rally Championship. The poor fellow, in his iron will to succeed, rode over rock and rubble in a manner reminiscent of Knights during the time of Queen Elizabeth-I. But as a passenger reclined backwards at an angle of 45 degrees, I clearly could not share the driver's high spirits. "River-rafting, my dear fellow", I wanted to tell him, "is generally not carried out on land, however slushy the roads may be."

The single most obvious effect of this mountain road roller-coaster was the enthusiasm passengers displayed to take the window seat. This is not to be confused with the desire to appreciate scenery. Upset tummies gurgling like cisterns, travel sickness bags being passed around and various forms of digestive projectile motion being demonstrated summed it all up. As for me, an Avomin pill did the trick (normally, i would proceed to enlighten u that etymologically, 'Avomin' is partly derived from Sanskrit negative prefix 'a-' (not) and  Latin 'vomin' (to vomit), but this time, I refrain from doing so!)

The bus stopped at a Haveli the next day morning, for people to attend their morning calls (not to mention several 'missed calls' during the night!) To my dismay I noted that only tissue paper had been provided in the toilets and there was no tap to be seen for washing. At that, I was forced to issue an 'About turn' command and wait for the prospect of using a toilet only at Delhi.

While on the subject of toilets and wash areas, I want to speak out my mind and get to the bottom of things!
Never has mankind been so unnecessarily and wastefully innovative when it comes to designing taps and flushes. I am sure the ordinary man will be totally bewildered for such a simple thing as – how do I open this tap? Do I
a) press it?
b) lift it?
c) twist it to the left or right?
d) place my palms under the spout as in prayer?
e) adopt a wait & watch policy, let someone else operate?

Even more bewildering are the toilet flushes! Where is the flush button, dammit? And why the hell is it camouflaged? Don't they have better things to camouflage- the US army in Iraq , for instance- but why? Why flush buttons of  all the things on earth? And why can’t they provide ordinary taps for post-morning-call use?

I say this with deep feeling, as I realised later that i had been made a gross fool of in the matter, when  a co-passenger educated me  that the wash taps in the Haveli toilets are not fixed to the walls  as generally known , but ‘cleverly’ positioned  at a set of precise co-ordinates inside, mind you, inside the ‘commode' itself! All u have to do is to go on sitting on the toilet seat while the 'flushing station' senses the 'proximity of the target' with respect to the station and an obliging  jet of water from the secret pipe set inside the commode is released by a set of (again obliging) valves to do  all the bum-washing required! 

Now, if this facility is altruistically  intended to reduce human labour and make human life easier easier, I totally oppose it and register my strong protest with the relevant authority concerned! Now, I would like to know why is it that for AGES till recently,  the humble tap never underwent any metamorphosis? Why only now? I postulate that this is being  done by a set of practical misguided jokers who manufacture flushing equipment calculated to frighten and bewilder the poor ordinary man in an emergent situation! And they also extort a fancy price for such accursed equipment!
Smart toilets, indeed!