At last the cow moved off the road. And soon the bus came to a railroad crossing. A speck of a train could be seen in the distance, growing bigger and bigger as it drew near. Then it rushed past the crossing gate with a tremendous roar and rattle, shaking the bus. Then the bus went on and passed the train station. From there it traversed a busy, well-laid-out shopping street and, turning, entered a wider thoroughfare. Such big, bright-looking shops! What glittering displays of clothes and other merchandise! Such big crowds!
Struck dumb with wonder, Valli gaped at everything.
Then the bus stopped and everyone got off except Valli.
“Hey, lady,” said the conductor, “aren’t you ready to get off? This is as far as your thirty paise takes you.”
“No,” Valli said, “I’m going back on this same bus.” She took another thirty paise from her pocket and handed the coins to the conductor.
“Why, is something the matter?”
“No, nothing’s the matter. I just felt like having a bus ride, that’s all.”
“Don’t you want to have a look at the sights, now that you’re here?”
“All by myself? Oh, I’d be much too afraid.
Greatly amused by the girl’s way of speaking, the conductor said, “But you weren’t afraid to come in the bus.”
“Nothing to be afraid of about that,” she answered.
“Well, then, why not go to that stall over there and have something to drink? Nothing to be afraid of about that either."
“Oh, no, I couldn’t do that.”
“Well, then, let me bring you a cold drink.”
“No, I don’t have enough money. Just give me my ticket, that’s all.”
“It’ll be my treat and not cost you anything.”
“No, no,” she said firmly, “please, no.”
The conductor shrugged, and they waited until it was time for the bus to begin the return journey. Again there weren’t many passengers.
Valli is extremely happy about getting new sights to watch as this is her first time exploring the brave new world. She is taken aback by a cow which is scared of the bus and refuses to move. After the adventure, the cow moved off the road, and Valli was cheerful. The bus next goes to a railroad crossing. Normally the train tracks run through the middle of the road, and vehicles on either side are made to wait by a check post for the trains to cross. Trains move fast; therefore, Valli sees it from a distance as a small speck, but it soon looms bigger as it draws near. This does not mean the train transformed its size, but the distance made it appear small. Not only the size but the intensity also increases as it crosses the bus. There was a tremendous roar and rattle as it sped across the bus, nearly shaking it. There are express trains that could pass in a jiffy and cause quite an uproar. The bus slowly passed the train station.
People waiting at Railway crossing*
Valli has never been out of her small village, which only had shops for immediate requirements. But outside the city, there were fairs and colourful shops. A fair is usually organised for people from all kinds of small villages to enjoy and buy new things. Valli sees new shops with dresses, bangles and other glistening merchandise. It was a busy street, and people were shopping in bright-coloured shops. Valli was amazed and struck with wonder at all the new sights that she had witnessed. The bus finally reaches the stop, and all the passengers get down. Valli, whose sole motive was to travel in the bus, did not see the point of getting out.
She also had to go back to her village on the same bus before her mother could wake up. The conductor, who realised that Valli had not got down, enquired if she had no plans to explore the city and that her thirty paise could only take her so far. Valli immediately takes up another thirty paise and asks for another ticket home. The conductor, having never seen anyone act like this, asks if there is anything wrong and why she does not want to explore the city. She replies that she would be afraid to do that on her own. Valli knew that she could get into trouble if she did not prioritise her safety and therefore remained cautious. The conductor is surprised that she is not afraid of taking the bus, to which she bravely replies that there is nothing to be scared of the bus, showing that she has visualised it as a safe space. When the conductor offers to pay for a drink, she firmly rejects it as she keeps up her self-respect.
Words with difficult meanings:
|Very large or great
|A road that leads to a route
|Goods that are for sale
|Thinking that something is funny
|To lift your shoulders to signify ignorance
- National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). Beehive. Madam Rides the Bus - Vallikannan (pp. 116-128). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.
- People waiting at Railway crossing*: Travelview / Shutterstock