One could say with some certainty that Rinku Rai's ride on the Tata-Chapra Express is a journey that she will never forget.
With the train rattling through the night of eastern India, the heavily pregnant woman felt the need to visit the lavatory. When she reached it, she felt a pain in her stomach and found herself alone, giving birth.
That would have been dramatic enough, but as the 30-year-old delivered, sat above the lavatory, the newborn boy fell through the toilet chute and on to the tracks. With no thought for her own safety, Mrs Rai leapt from the train and started running backwards, searching for her child.
Amid the confusion, someone on the train thought the woman was trying to commit suicide and pulled the emergency stop cord which brought the express to a halt more than a mile from where Mrs Rai had jumped off. Her husband joined railway staff and other passengers who discovered the young woman sitting on the side of the tracks, cradling her unharmed newborn son.
Officials said the woman was put back on the train and then taken to the next station, Purulia, where the train arrived at 11.15pm. "We were ready with a doctor and a nurse," said the stationmaster. "The mother had a few scratches on her left arm. And the baby, nothing at all."
From her bed, Mrs Rai said she had felt mild pain when she went to the lavatory. "The baby came out, chord, placenta and all," she said. "But before I could realise what had happened, it slipped through the hole. I became hysterical, came out of the toilet and jumped from the train."
The incident happened as Mrs Rai and her husband, Bhola, from Orissa, were travelling to Bihar to stay with relatives until she gave birth. Their four-year-old daughter was also travelling with them.
"This was a miracle. I have never seen anything like this in years of service," said the station manager, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.
It was not the first such incident on an Indian train. Just last year, a newborn girl survived a fall from a train toilet in Gujarat. Her parents eventually named her Radha, or "Success".
Mrs Rai and her husband have yet to think of a name for their son. "I still cannot believe it. When I realised Rinku had jumped out of the train, I gave up all hope of seeing her alive," he said. "I can only thank God for keeping my family intact, with a bonus."Reuse content