Madam Rides the Bus by Vallikkannan

Madam Rides the Bus

by Vallikkannan

Part i

Valliammai is a 8-year-old village girl who has few friends to spend time with. She stands near the front door of the house and sees the people, animals, vehicles etc. passing by in either direction. Their sight and sound amuses her, and this is how she fights off her boredom.

A bus commuted through her street every hour once heading from her village to the town, and then back. The changing faces of passengers on the bus on each journey mystified he.

As days passed, Valli fancied a trip on the bus to go to the town. The desire grew stronger and stronger each day. She felt jealous of her friends who made the journey to the town, and returned to give a commentary on what they had seen there. Valli couldn’t resist the urge to go on the bus ride herself.

From her neighbours’ conversations about the town, she gleaned some ideas about what the bus ride was like, and how the town looked. The town was six miles away and the bus fare was thirty paise. The journey time was just about forty-five minutes.

Valli conjured up a nice to and fro trip by bus to experience the thrill of travel. She thought she could go by the bus to the town, and return in the same bus to her village. The to and fro fare would be sixty paise, and the whole trip would be over in one and half hours. She could catch the one o’ clock bus, and return by two thirty. It was the time of her mother’s afternoon siesta.   ‘That would be a great expedition,’ she felt.

Oral comprehension check ..

  1. What was Valli’s ……..? With no friends, Valli used to stand near her front door and gaze at the road that had some un-ending movements and sounds. This was her favourite pastime.
  2. What was ………………. desire? Valli loved the sight and sound of the road in front of her house. Her strongest desire was to go on a bus trip to the town.
  3. What did Valli find out ……………..? She got to know that the six-miles journey to the town took forty-five minutes one way, and the fare was thirty paise. She could go and come back in one and half years spending sixty paise. She overheard the conversation of the elderly people who regularly went to town, and gathered these information.
  4. What do you think ……………….? Valli was determined to undertake her maiden bus journey to the town. She planned to save the fare amount, and sneak out of the house in the afternoon when her mother took her one-hour nap.

Part ii

On one fine spring afternoon, Valli, clutching her sixty paise, sneaked out of her house to catch the bus. She signaled the driver to stop. An incredulous conductor ushered Valli in. In all his life, the conductor was seeing such a young unaccompanied child travelling alone. The bus was sparsely filled. The passengers, too, were a little taken aback to see Valli. She was asked to occupy a seat in the front. 

The bus was new with both the exterior and interior glistening. A clock was kept adjacent to the windshield. Vali feasted her eyes with the lush greenery and the trees that lay further field in the other side of the canal. She was visibly excited. A canvass screen on the window was blocking her view. So, she decided to stand up on the seat, but was promptly told by an elderly passenger not to do so. The conductor was a jovial person who occasionally poked fun at Valli. The passengers, too, appeared pleased with having Valli round. She bought her ticket from the conductor. With the ticket in hand, she asserted herself as a bona fide passenger and didn’t allow either the conductor or the passengers to treat her condescendingly. But, she was not aloof or brash. She smiled instinctively and added to the fun inside the bus.

A cow frightened by the roar of the bus was racing on the road. Despite repeated honking by the driver, the cow didn’t make way for the bus. Valli was both amused and pitiful towards the cow. After some time, the cow veered to the side and the bus continued its journey unhindered. 

Finally, the bus reached the town, and all passenger disembarked sans Valli. On being asked by the conductor, she said that she wanted to go back in the same bus. The conductor was somewhat baffled by the little girl’s intentions. Valli turned down all the suggestions to get down and take a walk around the place. 

After a few minutes, the bus headed back towards Valli’s village. To her horror, Valli discovered that the cow that had run ahead of her bus some time earlier, had been run over by a vehicle, and lay dead on the road. Valli was filled with grief at the sad turn of events. 

Finally, she reached her village and alighted from the bus. By that time, her mother had woken up and was busy chatting with her sister-in-law. She managed to skirt her mother’s query about her  absence from home. Everything seemed so normal.

—————————-To be contd —————-

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