Vallikkannan, is the
pseudonym of R. S.
journalist, critic, and
translator from Tamil
Born: November 12,
Died: November 9,
In this sensitive story, an eight-year old
girl’s first bus journey into
the world outside her village is also her
induction into the mystery
of life and death. She sees the gap
between our knowing that there
is death, and our understanding of it.
Eight years old girl Valliammai she was called
Valli for short.
Her favorite time pass was standing at her
doorway of her house and seeing things
The most attractive thing of all was the bus that
travelled between her village and the nearest
Daily seeing bus, a tiny wish crept in Valli’s mind
to ride the bus.
Valli started to ask about bus who have ever
travelled from it.
The town was six miles from her village.
The fare was thirty paise one way.
The trip to the town took forty-five minutes.
She could take the one-o’clock afternoon bus,
reach the town at one forty-five, and be back
home by about two forty-five.
One fine spring day at afternoon Valli left for bus.
Conductor extended her hand for help but Valli
said," I can get on by myself. “
The conductor was fond of joking. “Oh, please
don’t be angry with me, my fine madam.”
There were only six or seven passenger all
looking at Valli and laughing with the conductor.
It was a new bus, its outside painted a gleaming
white with some green stripes along the sides.
The bus was going along the bank of a canal.
Valli asked for ticket.
The conductor punched a ticket and handed it to
When bus stopped, some new passengers got on,
and the conductor got busy for a time. Afraid of
losing her seat, Valli finally sat down.
An elderly woman came and sat beside Valli.
Valli found the woman absolutely repulsive — such
big holes she had in her ear lobes, and such ugly
earrings in them.
Valli 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.
Valli’s next problem was how to slip out of the
house without her mother’s knowledge.
A young cow, tail high in the air, was running very
fast, right in the middle of the road, right in front of
the bus stopped and everyone got off
Conductor said, “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.” and Valli showed money.
Conductor offered her a drink.
“No, no,” Valli said firmly, “please, no.”
Valli saw a young cow lying dead by the roadside,
just where it had been struck by some fast-moving
“Isn’t that the same cow that ran in front of the bus on
our trip to town?” she asked the conductor.
The conductor nodded, and Valli was overcome with
The memory of the dead cow haunted Valli
dampening her enthusiasm.
Valli no longer wanted to look out the window.
The bus reached her village at three forty.
Valli turned to the conductor and said, “Well, sir, 1
hope to see you again.”
When Valli entered her house she found her mother
awake and talking to one of Valli’s aunts, the one
from South Street.
“And where have you been?” said her aunt when
Valli came in.
Valli just smiled, and her mother and aunt went on
with their conversation.
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