Madam Rides the Bus is chapter 9 in the class 10 CBSE English book First Flight. It is written by Vallikkannan, a Tamil writer. Originally written in Tamil the story has been translated into English by K.S. Sundaram.
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Brief Summary of Madam Rides the Bus
The story of Madam Rides the Bus is about an 8-year-old curious little girl named Valliammai who loves to explore. She doesn’t have many friends of her own age. Her favourite pass time, therefore, is standing by the doorway and looking out at the street which is always bustling with various new activities. One thing that caught her attention was the bus that went to the nearest town from their village as it passed through the street in front of her house. Watching a new set of passengers come and go on the bus was very interesting to this young little girl.
She wishes to ride the bus too and hence asks discreetly around about the bus ride. She gathered information from wherever she could find and got to know that the bus fare is 30 paise one way and it takes 45 minutes to reach the town. She planned and calculated and then recalculated until she had saved enough money to buy a to and fro ticket on the bus. She chose the afternoon time when her mother is usually asleep for the ride.
She stood in front of the bus and asked the conductor to stop it for her. When she was offered help by the conductor to get in she declined and said that she was capable of helping herself in and that she was no little girl but a grown-up who had paid for the ticket like everyone else. The conductor who was a jolly fellow called her “Madam” and good-naturedly made everyone including her laugh at his humorous jokes. He kept on calling her madam throughout the to and fro ride on the bus.
While the bus was going to the town Valli saw various beautiful sights on her way through the window and absorbed it all with enthusiasm. One incident that made her laugh enough to bring tears to her eyes was when a young cow ran in front of the bus and when the driver honked, it would run faster still in front of the bus. On reaching town she would not get out of the bus for the fear of being alone there in the unusual surroundings. She declined the offer of a cold drink by the conductor. On the ride back she was similarly enthusiastic until she saw the dead young cow on the road. After that, she got a bit subdued and sat still glued to her seat until she had reached her village. Getting off the bus she bid adieu to the conductor and said that she would see him again soon. To which he happily replied that she was welcome whenever she wanted another bus ride. On reaching home she sees her mother talking to a neighbour and she is called a nosy girl by the neighbourhood aunty who says that she acts as though she were a grown-up. The story ends with Valli smiling to herself and no one knowing what the smile is for.
Free NCERT PDF for this chapter can be found here.
Valliammai is the protagonist of the story. The whole story revolves around this little girl’s first bus ride. She is a curious young girl of 8 years. Enthralled by the bus that used to pass from the street outside her house everyday and interested in experiencing the ride herself she tries her best to gather information by talking to various people. She learns the fair, the timings and even saved up money by not giving in to the temptation of toys, candies and the fair rides. She confidently stops the bus, buys a ticket from the conductor and sits on her seat enjoying the views that the ride had to offer. Like any other child, she is enthusiastic, cheerful and bubbly but also brave enough to go alone exploring. Being sensitive she also gets very subdued when she sees the lifeless body of the young cow lying on the road. It might have been her first close shave with death but she seems to understand the gravity of the situation. She is also smart enough not to take things offered by strangers and not to wander alone in unusual surroundings when the conductor offers to get her a cold drink. She is a sweet little girl who acts like a grown-up and loves to explore but with her wits about her. All these things show that Valli was a strong-willed, confident and determined girl who wanted to do things her own way.
The name of the conductor is not known to us because it has not been given in the story. We know him by his profession as the conductor of the bus Valliammai takes to go to town. He is a cheerful and jolly guy who likes to make jokes and keep people entertained on their rides. He seems happy to help out and answer questions asked by the little girl. He nicknames her as “Madam” and jokes along with her for the entire ride. In town, he even asks to buy her a cold drink which she refuses. When she leaves the bus on reaching her village he good-naturedly bids her adieu and tells her she is always welcome whenever she wants another bus ride. He overall seems a decent and nice man who enjoys his job.
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FAQs for Madam Rides the Bus
Valli was very enthusiastic on her bus ride until she saw the young cow lying dead on the road while on her ride back. This scene with the dead cow spreadeagled on the road with blood all around must have been very upsetting for a young girl her age and this made her sad and subdued.
Valli was very fascinated by the bus she used to see passing from the street in front of her house and her greatest desire was to get a ride on it. So she discreetly gathered information from everywhere and got to know the timing, the price of the ticket and saved money to be able to buy her ticket for the ride.
Valli didn’t buy the drink because she did not have money to buy it and she didn’t want the conductor to buy it for her because she was a strong-willed, smart and determined girl who would not accept anything from a stranger and would rather do things by herself in her own way.
Valli didn’t like the appearance of the old lady who sat beside her because at first her appearance was very shabby with big holes in her ears, ugly earrings and the juice of betel nut that she was chewing was also about to spill down her lips which didn’t inspire any sociability in Valli. And another thing was that she called Valli a small girl and asked too many questions which annoyed her a great deal.
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