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Valliammai, commonly known as Valli, was an eight years old girl who was very curious about things. She had no playmates and her favourite past time was to watch everything that happened on the street. She loved watching the roads. For her, it was equal to other games that kids of her age played.
A fascinating thing for her to watch was the bus. It went to and fro her village once in an hour. It gave her immense joy. Valli had this wish of riding the bus, but as time passed, this wish changed into a desire. Valli liked the faces of the people who got on and off the bus. Valli got very angry whenever any friend of her tried to describe the experience of riding the bus.
With time, Valli gathered information about the bus ride by listening to her neighbours (as they regularly boarded the bus). The town to which the bus went was six miles. The bus fare was ‘thirty paise’ – one way, which was humongous for Valli. Valli planned carefully.
One day, when the bus was about to leave, Valli shouted, “stop the bus”, and the conductor peeped out of the window, ‘Hurry then’. Valli showed him some coin and got into the bus.
The conductor jokingly told everybody to step aside and make way for madam. Valli became shy and quietly sat in a corner. The conductor whistled twice, and the bus started to move. The bus was in good condition.
Valli enjoyed the scenery while standing as she could not see everything outside while sitting. She saw green fields till the end of the horizon. While enjoying the view, an older man told her to sit down. It annoyed her. Valli said to him that she had paid her fare like everyone on the bus had. The conductor again mocked Valli by calling her madam. Valli got angry at him and reminded him that he had not yet given her the ticket.
The conductor mimicked Valli, and everyone laughed. The conductor advised Valli to sit and make herself comfortable as she had paid for a seat. Valli wanted to stand. The conductor said that Valli might hurt herself if the bus made a sharp turn, but Valli insisted on standing. Some new passengers boarded the bus and Valli sat down so she could not lose her seat.
An older woman asked Valli if she was all alone. Valli did not like her and replied to her affirmatively. That woman told Valli that a kid of her age must not travel alone. Valli told her not to bother her as she could take care on her own.
Valli saved every penny that came to her. She resisted the urge to buy toys and candies just for the sake of riding that bus. After saving sixty paise, Valli slipped out of her house after her mother took a nap. While the bus moved, Valli saw trees moving toward her, but they stopped as the bus stopped. Valli was delighted to see a cow running in the road in front of the bus.
The bus stopped before a railway track. The train shook the bus while passing. The bus again moved, and this time, it crossed a busy market with huge shops on either side of it. The bus had now reached its destination. The conductor asked Valli to get off, but she paid him thirty paise more and demanded a return ticket. The conductor offered Valli some cold-drink, but she refused.
The conductor gave Valli the ticket again and asked if her mother was looking for her. Valli enjoyed everything upon her return. Suddenly, she saw a dead cow lying in the road. She asked the conductor if this was the same cow that ran in front of their bus earlier. The conductor nodded his head, and Valli became sad.
Due to this incident, she did not want to look outside the window now. She sat on the seat sadly. The bus reached her village at three forty, and she got off the bus. Upon entering her house, she saw her very talkative aunt. She was talking to her mother.
Valli’s mother told her aunt that there is much happening outside every moment, and they do not know of it. Valli replied, “Oh yes!”. Valli’s aunt told her mother that Valli poked her nose into their conversation. Valli smiled, and nobody understood her smile.