Anyway, I do find it difficult to fish for a single article of mine which will stand alone without any connection with anything else I have ever written. Here's one of those rare pieces -- I can guarantee that it will not start a chain reaction -- unless, of course, I Google Bus Baby and see where it takes me!
Indian Express, Madras
18 January 1971
ONCE in a while you come across a news item which says that a baby was born in some odd place or other. Usually it happens in a taxi or an aeroplane. Trains and cinema houses have figured in the news sometimes, but a refreshing variation is found in the latest case, which concerns a bus.
You can't say the State Transport authorities did not anticipate the event. Ever since they christened their Ashok Leyland coach 'Red Lady', they must have been preparing themselves for the day a baby would be born in a bus. It is not unreasonable to imagine that they might even have issued departmental instructions to all busmen in the matter.
In any case, there can be no doubt that on their own initiative, bus conductors must have been casting speculative glances on female passengers in the hope that one of them might bring them a cash award for showing great presence of mind in a peculiar situation. Drivers too must be making a mental note of maternity homes and hospitals on their regular routes, just to ensure their own share of the prize money.
I wonder what kind of emergency might have induced the lady in the news to get into a bus of all things when she was expecting baby to materialize any moment. Maybe the young one arrived much earlier than expected; but even so, a bus journey on our roads is bumpy enough for the most impregnant passenger, and no unborn baby can reasonably be expected to fasten its seat-belt and forget the jolts!
But on second thoughts, I must say I am not really surprised by the happening. In a country where more babies are born every minute than anywhere else in the world (except perhaps China), the surprising thing is not that some babies are born outdoors, but that many more are not. For every baby born in a bus, after all, millions are born in bed, and the Health Minister might well say that our lady's getting into the bus was no more reckless an action than her getting into bed -- or getting in the family way in the first instance.
An intriguing aspect of the incident was that as soon as the lady was in labor, all the male passengers were asked to get down before the bus went on its way to a hospital. I hope this doesn't set up a precedent. If it does, I can no longer board a bus containing a lady with a laden look without feeling highly insecure about my own seat in the bus. Nor can I ever travel by train again without worrying about when I would be required to change compartments, or be left behind at a wayside station.
And I shudder to think about the possibility of a mid-air announcement by a midwifely stewardess: "Attention, please! Will all gentlemen passengers kindly collect their parachutes from under their seats and bale out through the emergency exit? We regret the inconvenience caused, but a baby is being born. Thank you!"