One day, Amaru had the thought that he might take a long trip, just for a change of scene. He knew that a bus came through his village every so often, and some investigation revealed that in fact the bus came through every six weeks on its way to and from a large city in central India, about 600 miles away.
So, the day before the bus was to arrive, he packed some clothes in a box that he secured with twine. His Auntie Pushpa insisted that he take food with him, and sent Leela with a huge basket filled with fruits, pakoras, and sweets. Then he settled down to wait as calmly as possible until the next day, when the bus would come and whisk him away.
The next morning, having been told that the bus would stop at the tiny canteen at the end of the village at around midday, Amaru picked up his box and his basket and, his heart thudding with excitement, made his way to the appointed place. He wanted to be early.
He went into the canteen to wait, and chatted with Gopal, a long-standing friend, while he waited.
Finally the bus arrived, in a cloud of black smoke and red dust. Amaru picked up his belongings, and, with Gopal at his side, went up to the bus. It was huge, blue-and-red-striped under the oily grime, and filled with people. There were even people hanging on to the windows, riding on the outside!
Amaru’s heart almost stopped. There was after all to be no room for him on the Bus. “Don’t worry,” said Gopal, “I will lift you up, you just hang on. You will be okay!” Gopal lifted him up and held him next to an open window so that Amaru could, like the others, hang on from the outside.
But it was no use. Gopal had to set Amaru down again.
Just then the bus driver came out of the canteen with his Coca-Cola in his hand and said, “Look, you can meet this bus in the next town! We will stop there for two hours, and some of the people will get off. Everything will be okay!”
So Amaru shouldered his box and picked up his basket and set off walking. He could hear the bus grinding along behind him, and soon it passed him by.
It was a very hot day, and Amaru was not used to so much walking, but he trudged steadily, little puffs of dust rising from his bare feet. He was reluctant to take any rest, because he had no idea how long it would take to walk to the town. So he just kept going.
Finally, he could see the buildings, and then he was in the town. He went to where the bus driver had said the bus station would be. It was not there.
Amaru just stood and stared at the spot, which was an old building with a fallen-in roof. A young boy about ten years old happened to be passing just then, and he informed Amaru that the bus station had been moved to the other side of the town.
Amaru set his box and basket down in the dust, and sat down on the box. He was tired, hot, thirsty, hungry, and disappointed. He looked at the basket his auntie Pushpa had so kindly provided, and that he had carried for miles in the heat without a thought, so intent was he on catching his bus.
Amaru reached into the basket and brought forth a ripe, juicy mango. With the knife his auntie had provided, he carefully peeled the fruit, putting the peelings back in the basket. He slowly ate the mango, with much enjoyment. He then cleaned his face with his hands, and his hands on the leaves of a nearby bush.
Just then he heard a familiar roaring, grinding noise. The driver leaned out of his window and called down to Amaru, “Well, are you coming?”
Amaru picked up himself, box, and basket, and, with a little help from a kindly old man sitting in the front seat, managed this time to board the bus, and even to find a seat.
Later, as he bumped along in comfort, it occurred to Amaru: Had he rushed on to find the new bus station, he would have missed the bus after all.