This is a story about the first bus journey of an eight-year-old girl. Her name was Valliammai. She was called Valli for short. She was a curious girl. She wanted to know many things. She did not have playmates of her own age. Her favourite pastime was standing in the front doorway of her house to see what was happening outside.
Watching the happenings in the street gave her many new unusual experiences. The most fascinating thing of all was the bus that passed through the street each hour. The bus traveled between her village and the nearest town. The sight of the bus was a source of unending joy for Valli. It was a great joy for her to watch new sets of passengers every time the bus passed through the street. As she watched the bus day after day. she developed a wish to have a ride on that bus. Her wish became stronger and stronger until it was an overwhelming desire.
Valli carefully listened to the conversations between her neighbours and people who had traveled on the bus or who regularly used it. She asked some casual questions also. In this way, she learned about small details about the journey. She came to know that the town was six miles away from her village. It took forty-five minutes to reach there. The fare was thirty paise for one way. One could keep sitting on the bus and return to the village by paying another thirty paise. Valli planned her journey to the town and back. It would be her first journey out of her village. She saved every paisa by resisting her desire to buy ice cream, toys, balloons, etc. She had also killed her desire to visit the village fair and have a ride on the merry-go-round. When she had saved sixty paise, she was ready for her first bus journey.
Then she planned how she would slip out of the house. She knew that her mother slept daily after lunch. She decided to use these hours for her journey. She decided to board the bus at one o’clock so that she could be back by two forty-five. So one fine spring day Valli boarded the bus. The conductor was so seeing her confidence, he allowed her to board the bus. He was a jolly fellow. He understood that Valli spoke with pride. He called her Madam and offered her a seat. He asked others to make way for the ‘madam’. There were only six or seven passengers on the bus. They were all looking at Valli. They and the conductor have overcome her shyness, quickly walked to an empty seat, and sat down.
Valli looked around her on the bus. The bus had a fine painting of green stripes on the white. It had soft and comfortable seats. It had a beautiful clock above the windscreen. The overhead bars shone like silver. Then she tried to look outside. She found her view cut off by a curtain that covered the lower part of her window, so she stood on her seat to enjoy the outside scene, The bus was going along the bank of a canal. She saw palm trees, mountains, and the blue sky. On the other side, there were green fields. Suddenly an elderly man warned Valli not to stand on the seat. He called her a child and said that she could fall and get hurt. But Valli does not care for him. She told him proudly that she was not a ‘child’. She had paid the full fare like the others. The conductor told the man that Valli was a grown-up madam. Valli looked at the conductor angrily said that she was not a madam. The conductor told her that she should not stand on the seat. She could fall when the bus took sharp turns. But Valli ignored his remarks also.
On the way, the bus stopped and some new passengers got on. Afraid of losing her seat, Valli finally sat elderly woman came and sat beside her. Valli looked at the woman. She found her repulsive. She had ugly earrings. She was chewing betel. Valli could see that the Beetlejuice was likely to spill over her lips. That woman asked Valli whether she was traveling all alone. Valli told her that she was alone and She got a ticket too. Then the old woman asked her if it was proper for a child to travel alone. She also asked whether Valli knew exactly where she was going in town. Valli told the old woman that she need not bother about her. Then she turned her face toward the window.
The bus moved on across a bare landscape. Valli enjoyed the outside scene. Trees came running towards them. Sometimes, the bus seemed to strike the oncoming vehicle. But both passed safely. Suddenly Valli clapped her hands with joy. A cow was running in the middle of the road, in front of the bus. The bus slowed down. The driver sounded the horn again and again. But the cow became more frightened and continued running before the bus. Valli laughed and laughed until there were tears in her eyes. At last, the cow moved off the mad. The bus passed by the side of a railway crossing. Valli enjoyed the scene of trains. Then the bus catered to the city area. There were huge crowds of people. Valli looked at different things with surprise. Then the bus reached the city bus stand and stopped. Everybody got off the bus except Valli. The conductor asked Valli to get down.
But she told him that she was going back on the same bus. He was surprised and asked her why she had come to the city. She replied that she just wanted to take a ride on the bus. He asked Valli if she would like to have a look at the sights outside the bus. Valli said that she was afraid of that. He asked to have a cold drink. Valli said that she did not have enough money for that. The conductor offered to pay for her drink. But Valli did not accept the offer.
The bus resumed its return journey. There were the same wonderful sights. Valli enjoyed the scene again. But suddenly she saw a young cow lying dead, by the roadside. It had been struck by a fast-moving vehicle. She asked the conductor if it was the same cow they saw earlier. The conductor nodded. Valli became a tad. It had been a lovable, beautiful creature just a little while ago. But now the cow was without its charm and its life. The bus moved on. The memory of the dead cow haunted Valli. She no longer wanted to see out of the window. She kept sitting on her seat until her village came. She got down and wished the conductor to see him. The conductor smiled. He told Valli that whenever she felt like riding the bus she could come and join them.
Valli reached home. She found her mother was awake. She was talking to her aunt who lived in Sloth Street. She was a chatterbox. She asked Valli where she had been. But Valli just smiled. Her mother and aunt were discussing things outside the world. Her mother said that no one could know everything. At this Valli remarked that there were many things happening without our knowledge Her mother asked what she meant. Valli’s aunt called her a chit of a girl. She took an interest in things which did not concern her. She behaved as if she were a grown-up lady. Valli smiled to herself. She didn’t want them to understand her smile.
Short Summary (2)
Valli’s Favourite Hobby: There was a girl named Valliammai. She was called Valli for short. She was eight years old. She was very curious about things. Standing in the front doorway of her house was her favourite pastime. She had no playmates. Watching the street gave her many new unusual experiences.
Watching the Bus: Day after day she watched the bus that traveled between her village and the nearest town. She wished to ride on that bus. This wish became stronger and stronger. She would stare at the people who got on or off the bus. She listened carefully to the conversation between her neighbours who regularly used the bus. She picked up small details about the bus journey. The town was six miles from her village. The fare was thirty-five paise one way. To Valli, this amount seemed a fortune. The trip to the town took forty-five minutes.
Planned her Journey: She could take one o’clock on the afternoon bus. She would reach the town at one forty-five. She could be back home by about two forty-five. She calculated and recalculated, planned, and re-planned.
Main Points of the Story
- Valli was an eight-year-old girl.
- The most fascinating thing for her was the bus that traveled between her village and the nearest town.
- She wanted to ride the bus.
- She made elaborate planning and saved sixty paise —both ways fare of the bus.
- The bus conductor stretched out his hand to help her up but Valli could get on by herself.
- The conductor was fond of joking and called her ‘madam’.
- The bus started with a roar and Valli was constantly looking outside.
- The conductor asked her to sit down as she had paid for her seat.
- She took her seat and an elderly woman sat beside her.
- The old woman was very repulsive and the smell of the betel she was chewing offended, Valli.
- The old woman asked why Valli was traveling alone.
- Valli asked her not to bother about her.
- Suddenly, a young cow came running very fast in the middle of the road.
- The driver sounded his horn loudly but the more he honked, the more frightened the animal would become.
- Valli laughed at the scene until tears came to her eyes.
- Her destination had come. The driver asked Valli to get off the bus.
- Valli handed thirty paise coins to the driver and told him that she was going back on the same bus.
- The conductor was surprised. He offered a free cold drink to her.
- Valli firmly, but politely, rejected the offer.
- He asked if her mother wouldn’t be looking for her.
- On her return journey, she saw the same cow lying dead by the side of the road.
- The memory of the dead cow haunted her and she was no longer looking outside.
- She reached her village at 3.40 p.m.
- She wished and hoped to see the driver again.
- She found her mother awake and talking to one of her aunts.
- Her aunt was a chatterbox.
- Valli agreed that many things were happening outside without their knowledge.