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     The conductor chimed in. “Oh, sir, but this is a very grown-up madam. Do you think a mere girl could pay her own fare and travel to the city all alone?”
     Valli shot an angry glance at the conductor and said, “I am not a madam. Please remember that. And you’ve not yet given me my ticket.”
     “I’ll remember,” the conductor said, mimicking her tone. Everyone laughed, and gradually Valli too joined in the laughter.
     The conductor punched a ticket and handed it to her. “Just sit back and make yourself comfortable. Why should you stand when you’ve paid for a seat?”
     “Because I want to,” she answered, standing up again.
     “But if you stand on the seat, you may fall and hurt yourself when the bus makes a sharp turn or hits a bump. That’s why we want you to sit down, child.”
     “I’m not a child, I tell you,” she said irritably. “I’m eight years old.”
     “Of course, of course. How stupid of me! Eight years — my!”
     The bus stopped, some new passengers got on, and the conductor got busy for a time. Afraid of losing her seat, Valli finally sat down.
     An elderly woman came and sat beside her. “Are you all alone, dear?” she asked Valli as the bus started again.
The conductor, who was listening to the conversation, chimes in with his usual sarcasm. He tells the older man that Valli is right and that she is not just an ordinary person. He says that she is a big madam and that she is indeed grown up. He also uses her statement, saying she's grown up because she has money to get the ticket. But Valli does not understand that he is making fun of her and emphasises the fact that she is not a child and is there to enjoy and travel with other people. She is also wise enough to know that she needs a ticket to travel and reminds the conductor that he still needs to give her the ticket. He replies that he will not forget, as he likes to have more fun with her. He mimics her tone, which is funny and makes other people laugh. Valli loosens up and understands that he does not mean any offence. Hence she joins the laughter and cools down.
Although he has fun, the conductor is nice and is worried about Valli's safety. He asks her to sit in her seat, citing that she has paid for a seat and that it would be a waste of money if she does not use it. Valli does not sit down as she wants to see the scenes around. But she does not tell the conductor as she does not want everyone to know. But the conductor explains that she might fall down and hurt herself when the bus is taking a turn and goes on a bump. When he is gentle, he addresses her again as a child, which forces her to emphasise again that she is no child.
The conductor does not take it as offensive and goes with the flow and apologises, saying that he almost forgot that she is eight years old, posing as if it is too old. As the bus makes more stops, the conductor becomes busy with the other passengers. Valli sees more passengers and sits down as she does not want to lose her seat. An older woman enters the bus and sits next to Valli. She engages in a conversation and asks her from where she is. Valli found her irritating and did not like her from the first moment.
Words with difficult meanings:
Chimed A ringing sound, indicates giving a chorus
Glance To look over
Mimicking To imitate someone
Bump Small hindrances on the road
Repulsive Hateful, or prone to dislike
Ear lobes The small holes that one punches on the ears
Betel nut A medicinal lead consumed mostly by elderly people
Drivel Talking unnecessarily
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). Beehive. Madam Rides the Bus - Vallikannan (pp. 116-132). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.