Valli found the woman absolutely repulsive — such big holes she had in her ear lobes, and such ugly earrings in them! And she could smell the betel nut the woman was chewing and see the betel juice that was threatening to spill over her lips at any moment. Ugh! — who could be sociable with such a person?
“Yes, I’m travelling alone,” she answered curtly. “And I’ve got a ticket too.”
“Yes, she’s on her way to town,” said the conductor. “With a thirty-paise ticket.”
“Oh, why don’t you mind your own business,” said Valli. But she laughed all the same, and the conductor laughed too.
But the old woman went on with her drivel. “Is it proper for such a young person to travel alone? Do you know exactly where you’re going in town? What’s the street? What’s the house number?”
“You needn’t bother about me. I can take care of myself,” Valli said, turning her face towards the window and staring out.
Part - III
Her first journey — what careful, painstaking, elaborate plans she had had to make for it! She had thriftily saved whatever stray coins came her way, resisting every temptation to buy peppermints, toys, balloons, and the like, and finally she had saved a total of sixty paise. How difficult it had been, particularly that day at the village fair, but she had resolutely stifled a strong desire to ride the merry go-round, even though she had the money.
After she had enough money saved, her next problem was how to slip out of the house without her mother’s knowledge. But she managed this without too much difficulty. Every day after lunch her mother would nap from about one to four or so. Valli always used these hours for her ‘excursions’ as she stood looking from the doorway of her house or sometimes even ventured out into the village; today, these same hours could be used for her first excursion outside the village.
She looked like the typical older woman from the villages, as she had big earrings in her two big ear lobes. All older women used to wear it to express their wealth statement and cover their longer ear lobes. She also chewed betel leaves, which were sprinkled out when she opened her mouth to talk. Valli thought that no human being would be sociable with such a person. She did not want to converse with her and curtly replied that she was all alone. The conductor, who had by now settled, chimed in that she was going to the town with her thirty paisa ticket. He says this because he anticipates Valli to say it as she had to all other people. But the older woman was more curious about the safety of Valli as she said that it was dangerous for her to travel alone. She is also worried that Valli will be lost and asks her where exactly she is heading, the door number etc. But Valli is irritated by the constant questions and curtly replies that she can take care of herself and that the woman need not bother about her.
It was not easy for Valli to go on this trip as she had to make elaborate plans to sneak out of her house. Once it is achieved, she feels a sense of thrill and excitement. She had saved all the small amount she could collect for the bus fare. She repeatedly keeps telling everyone that she has a ticket as a means to confirm it. As a child, it was really difficult for her to resist the temptation to buy peppermints, candies, balloons etc., which every little child craves for. She collected sixty paise by saving from these things. This shows her determination to travel on the bus and that she was ready to forego all her favourite things. It was intense to the extent that she desperately wanted to go on a merry-go-round at the village fair and had to limit her desire to do so, even though she had the money. A village fair is a rare occasion, and people indulge in themselves as it is like a festival. But Valli resisted the urge as the bus ride had more prominence to her.
The next problem was a huge one, as it did not involve her own determination or sacrifice. This was a problem that all kids of her age faced. Parental surveillance would be an issue if she were to sneak out uninformed. She did not think that her mother would understand why it was important for her to travel on the bus. But she found a way to get out of the situation too. Her mother usually takes a nap from one to four after her lunch. And this had always been Valli's time to explore and get into her own unique world. This was the time she stood at the entrance of her home and wondered at the fast-moving world around her. She also took her little excursions around the village as she wandered around curiously, looking at everything around her. She had only gone on these excursions within the village limits, and now she was ready to get outside the village.
Words with difficult meanings:
|Behaving in a friendly manner
|Involving great care
|Saving money by not spending at all
|The leaves of a plant from the mint family
|A game for children that takes them round and round
|Determined and purposeful
|Stop one from acting up
|A short sleep cycle that helps one to rest
|A tour that is fun-filled
|To roam around and explore
- 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.
- Village Fair*: Images of India / Shutterstock