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Summary ofMadam Rides the Bus by Vallikkannan
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 travelled 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:
Valli could take the one o’clock 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.
Boarding the Bus:
When Valli sighted the bus she cried, ‘Stop the bus! Stop the bus!’ The bus slowed down. Still standing outside the bus, she told the conductor that she wanted to go to the town. She showed the money she had. The conductor stretched his hand to help her up. Valli replied that she could help herself. The conductor was fond of joking. He asked others to ‘— make way for the madam.’ All the six or seven passengers were looking at Valli. She was overcome with shyness. She quickly went to an empty seat and sat down. The conductor blew his whistle and the bus moved forward with a roar.
Valli started to look outside. The bus was now going along the bank of a canal. Beyond it, she could see palm trees, grasslands, distant mountains and the blue, blue sky. Then, she saw acres of green fields. An elderly person asked her to sit down. She was a little annoyed. The conductor said jokingly, ‘Oh, sir, but this is a very grown-up madam;’ Valli shot back: ‘I am not a madam.’ She reminded the conductor that he had not given her the ticket yet. He asked why she was standing when she had paid for her seat. He called her a child and asked her to sit down.
Not a Child: Valli said irritably:
‘I’m not a child, I tell you. I’m eight years old.’ Valli finally sat down. An elderly woman came and sat beside her. Valli found the woman ‘absolutely repulsive’. She had big hole in her ears and ugly earrings in them. She could smell the betel nut the woman was chewing. She asked if Valli was travelling alone. Valli cut short the woman as well as the conductor. She asked them to mind their own business. The old woman continued troubling Valli with her unpleasant questions. She asked why Valli was travelling alone and if she even knew where she was going. Valli retorted that she need not bother about her. She could take care of herself.
Saved Money for First Journey:
Valli’s first journey came after a careful and painstaking planning. She saved whatever stray coins came her way. Finally, she had saved a total of sixty paise. She resisted every temptation like buying toys, balloons and to ride the merry-go-round. Her next problem was how to slip out of the house without her mother’s knowledge. Her mother would nap every day from one to four. These three hours were for her ‘excursions’.
Reaching her Destination:
The bus was rushing through small hamlets. Suddenly, Valli clapped her hands. A young cow was running very fast, right in the middle of the road. It was right in front of the bus. The driver sounded his horn loudly again and again. The more he honked, the more frightened the animal became. It was very funny to Valli. She laughed until tears came in her eyes. Then, they passed through a railroad crossing. Then, it passed through a busy but well-laid-out shopping street. ‘Bright looking shops! What glittering display of clothes! Such big crowds!’ Thought Valli. Her destination had come. Her thirty paise could take her only to this place. The conductor asked her to get off. Valli replied that she was going back on the same bus. She handed thirty paise coins to the conductor.
The conductor was surprised. Valli told him that she just felt like having a bus ride again. He was greatly amused. He asked if she was not afraid of coming alone in the bus. She answered that there was nothing to be worried about. He was ready to offer a cold drink to her. She firmly said that she wanted only her ticket and nothing else.
A Cow Lying Dead:
Valli wasn’t bored during her return journey. She had the same excitement. Suddenly, she saw a young cow lying dead by the roadside. It had been struck by some fast-moving vehicle. It was the same cow which she had seen before. When alive, she was a lovable, beautiful creature. Now, she looked so horrible and frightening. Valli sat glued to her seat. The bus reached her village at three-forty.
She wished the conductor and hoped to see him again. When Valli entered her house, she found her mother awake and talking to one of her aunts. She was a real chatterbox. Her mother went on with her conversation. She opined that there were so many things in the world outside. They often couldn’t understand them completely. Valli agreed with her mother. She said that so many things were happening without their knowledge. Her aunt called her ‘just a chit of a girl, she is’. She poked her nose in their conversation as though she were a grown lady. Valli smiled to herself, but didn’t want them to understand her smile.
‘Madam Rides the Bus’ is the story of an eight-year-old girl Valli. She was a wonderful girl. She was
mature, clever, practical and self-respecting beyond her age. Standing in the front doorway and watching
what was happening in the street was her favourite pastime. She was a great planner. She thriftily saved
every penny that came her way for her first bus journey. During her first bus journey, Valli was full of
enthusiasm and excitement. She enjoyed the landscape, the canal, palm trees, distant mountains and
green fields stretching out as far as her eyes could see. She reacted strongly when she was called ‘a child’
or ‘madam’. The self-respecting girl refused to accept a free cold drink offered by the bus conductor. She
planned her bus journey during the nap hours of her mother. Interestingly, her mother could never know
of the bus journey her daughter undertook during her nap in the afternoon.
The message that the author conveys is that the world has both aspects that can make us sad or happy. One has to come to terms with death. During the bus ride Valli was overjoyed when she saw a cow running with her raised tail on the road ahead of the bus. While returning she noticed that the body of the same cow was crushed and bled. She was moved from within. The writer seems to suggest that the world does not promise us only happiness. Man has to learn and understand the nature of death too as it is an inseparable part of life.
The lesson ‘‘Madam Rides the Bus’’ is about a brave eight-year-old girl who had a strong desire as well
as courage to fulfil it. She liked gazing at the hustle and bustle of the street. Her favourite part was the
sight of a bus arriving and departing. Thus, she developed a deep desire to travel by bus. For that, she
needed all sorts of information about the bus journey. Besides, she needed to collect the bus fare and then plan it so that she could be back home before her mother woke up from her afternoon nap. Thus, the story brings recounts of how innocently but responsibly she fulfilled her deepest desire and her experiences on the bus ride. How an incident makes her realise the reality of life.
Justification of the Title
The title draws attention to how the bus conductor refers to the eight year old Valli during the bus ride.
He calls her ‘madam’ in mock respect. The girl Valli, at a very tender age, tries to understand the mystery
of life and death. The outside world for Valli is charming and fascinating but mysterious. She longs to
experience it by herself. The talks of the village people about the town added fuel to the fire. She decides
to go to the town all by herself without anybody’s support. She asked the bus conductor to take her to the town. She herself paid her fare. She wanted to be recognized as an adult who could take her own decisions.
That is why she disliked the patronizing and mocking tone in which the conductor and the passengers
talked to her. Sensing this, she became assertive and told them all that she could manage herself alone.
Thus the title suitably brings out the core of the character of Valli who decides to ride a bus.
Key Points (Train of Thoughts)
• Valli was an eight-year-old girl.
• The most fascinating thing for her was the bus that travelled between her village and the nearest town.
• She wanted to ride the bus.
• She made an elaborate planning and saved sixty paise — the 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 travelling 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 in 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.
• 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 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.
She emerges as a very clever, sensitive, self-respecting and fun-loving girl. She was just eight years old. She was a determined girl with a commanding nature. She was very curious about things. He favourite pastime was standing in the front doorway of her house. She was mature, clever and practical beyond her years. Saving sixty paise was not an easy job for a girl of her age. She was determined to resist any temptation that came in her way. Valli didn’t like being called a ‘madam’ or ‘a child’. She was a great planner and planned things after knowing all necessary details about them.