‘Madam Rides the Bus’ is a sensitive story of first bus journey by an eight-year-old girl Valli. It was her first foray into the world outside her village. At a very small age, she sees and tries to understand the mystery of life and death through incidents that she witnesses during the journey.
Short Summary: Madam Rides the Bus
Valliammai, Valli for short, was an eight-year-old girl who wanted to know a number of things. She had no one to play with. A bus ran between her village and the nearest town and Valli longed to travel by that bus.
Listening to people who had travelled by the bus, she gathered all little details about the trip. She decided to gather enough money to travel by it. When she had the required money, she went on the bus. The conductor was surprised to see a young girl, travelling by herself but jokingly called her ‘Madam’ and offered her the front seat. Valli observed everything very carefully e.g., the trees that seemed to be running towards them, a cow that suddenly moved in front of the bus and so on.
When they reached the town, Valli gaped at everything in amazement—the big shops and so on. The conductor asked her to get down and have a look at the sights, but Valli refused. She said that she had come only for the bus ride. The conductor offered to buy a cold drink for her but she refused.
On the journey back, Valli saw a young cow dead by the roadside. The conductor told Valli that it was the same cow that they had seen earlier. Valli felt sad. The memory of the cow haunted her. When they reached the village, the conductor told her to come again, but to remember to bring the fare. When Valli reached home, she found an aunty with her mother. Her mother asked her where she had been. Valli did not reply, but only smiled secretively.
Long Summary: Madam Rides the Bus
Valli’s nature and her hobbies
Valliammai was an eight-year-old girl. Valli was her pet name. She was curious by nature. Her favourite pastime was to stand in the doorway of her house and what was happening outside. She had no playmates. Watching the street gave her many new unusual experiences.
Valli’s wish about her first bus journey
She watched a bus that ran to and fro from her village to the nearest town. She develops a desire to ride on that bus. day by day her wish to make a journey by this bus became stronger and stronger.
Valli’s plan to have her first bus journey
Valli starts gathering information about the bus journey. She listened carefully the conversation between her neighbours who regularly used the bus. She asked various questions to the people about how to ride the bus. She gathered all the necessary information about the bus ride. She learnt the distance from her village to the nearest town, the fare charged for one-way and that if she took the one O’clock bus, she would be able to return by two forty-five the same day. She calculated the details and made a wise plan as to how to ride the bus.
Valli boards the bus
One fine spring day, Valli sneaked out of the house in the afternoon when her mother was taking a nap. When she was boarding the bus, the conductor offered her his hand to help her climb up the bus to which she denied. She showed him the money for the bus fare and stepped onto the bus.
Valli and the passengers inside the bus
Valli’s lady-like gestures and confidence amused the conductor. He jokingly called her ‘madam’. Valli got shy as all the other passengers were looking at her. She walked to a vacant seat and sat there. The bus was new and it was painted white with green stripes. Valli noticed everything on the bus very carefully. The canvas blind of the window had cut-off half of her outside view, for which she had chosen the window seat. So, to look outside, she stood up on her seat to take a view from the upper half of the window. Although she was just eight-year-old, she didn’t like it if anyone called her a ‘child’ or ‘madam’. She made that clear to the conductor and all the passengers on the bus. Valli insisted on standing on her seat to take a view of the outside even after a gentleman advised her to sit as she would otherwise get hurt. But when the other passengers started coming in, she sat on her seat fearing to lose her seat.
Valli’s savings for the bus journey
Valli had painstakingly saved whatever stray coins came her way. She was able to save sixty paise. She resisted every temptation like buying toys, balloons or to ride the merry-go round.
Valli gets excited at the views outside
When Valli saw outside the bus, she got excited to see the views of trees and fields passing by. She burst out laughing upon a cow that was running with her tail in the air, in the middle of the road and in front of the bus. When the bus reached the town after crossing the railroad, Valli got happy by seeing the ‘bright-looking shops’ which were laden with a lot of merchandise. When the conductor asked Valli why she wasn’t getting off the bus, she replied that she intended to go back to her village by the same bus. She took out another thirty paise from her pocket and gave it to the conductor as her return ticket.
Valli was still excited at her return journey. On the way she found a cow lying dead. It had been struck by some fast-moving vehicle. She was the same cow which she had seen before. the cow, when alive, was lovable and beautiful creature that caused Valli to laugh with amusement. Now, the sae cow looked so horrible and frightening. Valli’s excitement was gone and she sat sad glued to her seat.
Valli reaches home
The bus reached her village at three forty. When Valli entered home, she found her mother awake and talking to one of her aunts. She was a real chatterbox. Her mother pointed that there were so many things in the world outside that they couldn’t understand completely,’. Valli agreed with her mother. She said that so many things were happening without their knowledge. Her reacted by saying that she was’ just a fit of a girl’ and was poking her nose in their conversation like a grown lady. Valli smiled to herself but tried to let them not know the reason behind her smile.