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The Race – Nisha Punjabi

The Race by Nisha Punjabi is the story of Tarun, a brilliant athlete whose talents were not recognized by his father for a long time. Having felt lost and unwanted, Tarun lived a miserable childhood until he met Ram Narayan, a well known coach. The great man was of the first impression that Tarun could become an athlete.

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The Race by Nisha Punjabi | Summary

Tarun, a 12 year old, was not good at studies. He failed in almost all the exams. His father was always angry with his poor results and his friends made fun of him. In spite of his poor academic scores, Tarun was good at running.

Once, when he lost in his terminal examination, Tarun was scolded by his father as usual, so, he went to the park and sat down on a bench. At this time, a famous coach, Ram Narayan, arrives and encourages him. An Olympian in the past and now a trainer, Ram Narayan listened to Tarun and agreed to train him if he could qualify in the upcoming race on the Children’s Day.

Tarun was excited. He promised and started preparation from that day. He spent many hours early in the morning and in the evenings. Finally the Children’s Day event arrived and Tarun got ready for the race with many other children. Only his mother watching him from the gallery and Ram Narayan cheering for him, Tarun ran first for a while but fell down on the track. He was shocked but Tarun stood up and ran again, overtaking a few of the participants. Fate not in his favour that day, Tarun slipped again and again.

Although Tarun came last in that race, the audience cheered for his determination. Ram Narayan was impressed. He invited Tarun to his training academy from the next day.

The Race by Nisha Punjabi | Discussion

A similar situation many of you have faced or are facing. It is sad to be considered a black-sheep or worthless in your own family by those who have once loved you more than anything. Like Tarun, we too crave for recognition and love.

In my opinion, black-sheep are not born but made. By birth no one is a black-sheep nor does anyone want to become a black-sheep. A child develops into a black-sheep under certain evil circumstances – like extreme denial or extreme favoritism. If a child is extremely ignored by his/her parents or siblings due to his color or naughtiness, the child most probably gets into the shoes of a black-sheep. In similar conditions, some children tend to take the wrong way due to their parents who start calling them ‘naughty’ from the beginning of their life. Besides, any child can develop evil traits if they are favored by their parents. As such children are not punished or scolded for their wickedness in early childhood, they start believing that all their wicked, naughty doings were right. Thus they do wrong without feeling guilty.

Consider this practice in most Keralite families

  1. Parents tell the girl-child, “Cook well, because you are to be sent to another family.”
  2. Parents tell the elder son, “We will build a house for you where you can move after marriage.”
  3. Parents tell the youngest child, “after sister and brother got separated, we will renovate this house and we will live together.”

All these have strong impact on the daughter’s, elder son’s and younger son’s growth and character development.

Next The Race by Nisha Punjabi | Text-book Questions

The Race by Nisha Punjabi | Text-book Questions

  1. Who do you like more – Tarun or his brother? Why?
    Both Tarun and his brother are good on their sides. His brother was good at studies but being good at studies is a skill, not a virtue. Tarun was good at running but poor at studies. We cannot dislike someone for not having a skill. We should like Tarun’s tireless ambition and his brothers being good at academics.
  2. Why did Tarun think that he was the black sheep of the family?
    Tarun’s parents exhibited a typical belief that every child should be good at studies. This made Tarun think that he is a failure as a child as his marks were always bad. Besides, when he compared himself with his brother, he saw that he could never make his family feel proud of him.
  3. What were the obstacles before Tarun in pursuing his dream? Give some suggestions to solve these.
    Tarun’s dream was to become an athlete but he had several obstacles to cross. First of all, his parents constantly reminded him that he would be wasted without academic excellence. Besides, even if his parents agreed to train him, they would not because it was very hard to find the right person to train him.

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Extra Questions

  1. What does ‘black-sheep of the family’ mean?
    Black-sheep of the family means the most ruined son or daughter of a family. It is believed that every family has a black-sheep.
  2. What were Tarun’s pent-up emotions?
    Tarun’s pent-up emotions were sadness of not being able to afford training to be a good athlete, misery of not able to be good at studies, jealous of not being able to be as good as his brother and the depression of being the black-sheep of the family.
  3. Why did Tarun think of himself as the black-sheep of the family?
    Tarun’s parents were, like many parents in India, after academic grades and Tarun was never good at scoring high grades. He was not well to do in anything – singing, dancing, acting or painting. All he was good at was running for hours without pause. On the other hand, Tarun saw how proud his parents were of his elder brother who was going to be a future engineer. Having not been able to pick up anything worthy about him, Tarun began to feel like the black-sheep of the family.
  4. Do you think Tarun was proud of being the black-sheep of the family?
    No. Tarun was not proud of being a black-sheep. Unlike children who have the seed of wickedness in them, Tarun was upset because he was a black-sheep. He ran like a village dog to exhaust himself so that he could release his pent-up frustrations out of himself. This shows that Tarun was not glad to be the black-sheep of his family.
  5. What does pent-up emotions mean? How do emotions get pent-up?
    Pent up emotions are repressed emotions. Such emotions are stored in our mind each time we are not able to relieve them.

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Textbook Questions

  1. “It was a day he wanted to wipe out from his memory….” Why?
    The day when he failed in his terminal examinations was the day he wished to wipe out from his memory. He so wished because his father was angry with him and his friends made fun of him.
  2. What was the day that Tarun wanted to forget forever?
    The day that Tarun wished to wipe out from his memory was the day his terminal examination results were declared. It was the most painful day in his life because he had failed in the examination. His father was very angry with him and his friends made fun of him.

Extra Questions

  1. In spite of his poor performance at exams, Tarun had excelled in something that his family could not see. What was that?
    Although a mediocre student and consistent failure in examinations, Tarun was an excellent runner. He could run for hours without fatigue (tiredness). Rnning was a passion for Tarun.
  2. Where did Tarun meet Ram Narayan? Under what circumstance?
    Tarun met Ram Narayan seated next to him on a park bench. The meeting occurred at a very crucial time in Tarun’s life. He had been under great pressure and disappointment over his failure in the terminal examination.
  3. What was Tarun’s reaction on meeting Ram Narayan?
    Tarun was terribly thrilled at meeting Ram Narayan. He could not believe that he was talking to Ram Narayan for whom he had great regard and respect.
  4. Tarun fell thrice and crossed the finishing line last of all yet the crowd applauded for him. Do you think Tarun was a winner, as Ram Narayan said? Support your opinion.
    Success doesn’t always mean reaching first but reaching somehow even after repeated failures. If Tarun hadn’t got up and continued his race the first, second and third time, he was surely going to get no applause from the crowd. Falling is never a sign of defeat. Rising from the pit in which have fallen is real success in life.
  5. Do you think this story truly portray Indian families?
    In fact, not much. This story cannot be a real representation of Indian families for a couple of reasons. In India parents do not ignore children because they are absolute failures in studies. Tarun’s father doesn’t represent a typical father unless there is any other reason to hate a 12 year old child who was good at running and full of determination.

Next The Race by Nisha Punjabi | Character Sketches

The Race by Nisha Punjabi | Character Sketches

Ram Narayan

Ram Narayan is a man with a number of qualities – he is sympathetic, watchful, soothing, experienced and determined. He was caring too, evidenced by his watching Tarun seated in the park bench and crying. He had sympathy to approach a boy who was usually ignored by his family and society. His words came from his experience – having gone through many ups and downs in his own life. His words were like a rain of peace upon Tarun’s broken mind.


Tarun is rock hard in his determination. All that he wanted was someone who supported him and encouraged him. He was bad at studies but he was excellent in determination. Although he seems to be hating his father, Tarun could never keep his father out from his life. He wishes to prove worthy in front of his father who always disregarded his athletic skills.

Textbook Questions

  1. What made Ram Narayan say “Life is full of ups and downs”?
  2. Do you think Tarun’s meeting with Ram Narayan would change his life? Explain.

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Message of the Story | Write these answers in the comments box below.

  1. What message do you learn from Tarun’s story?
  2. Is Ram Narayan an ideal coach? Support your answer.

More Questions for you

You can answer these questions in the comments box below:

  1. The story ‘The Race’ gives us valuable lessons about life. Do you agree?
    Give reasons.
  2. Does the support of family and friends play an important role in one’s success? Justify your answer with reference to the story.
  3. Tarun received a louder applause than the winner though he lost the race. If you were in the stands watching the race, would you applaud him? Substantiate.
  4. What made Ram Narayan finally agree to train Tarun?
  5. What do you understand about the standard of the crowd that watched the race?

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The Race by Nisha Punjabi | Criticism

Do you think the author has put in a lot of exaggeration in the story? Give an instance.

Yes, Nisha Punjabi has put in unfair amount of exaggeration in the story. She says that Tarun’s friends had made fun of his failure in the terminal examination, which seems to be an exaggeration. In Indian culture, people are sympathetic to children who perform poorly in examinations. It is therefore unlikely that Tarun’s friends made fun of him.

The Race by Nisha Punjabi | Letter Writing

You are Arun, Tarun’s brother. You returned home today and heard of Tarun’s bitter experience from mother. You feel extremely sad that you, like your father, had failed to discover the talent in your brother. Write a letter to Tarun who is presently under training in Delhi. You are Arun, Tarun’s brother.

Dear Tarun,

……………… ………………. ……………….. …………….. ………………… …………………… …………………. ……………… .

Your loving brother,

Get ready! Test Ahead!

After completing the last question of the Let’s Play quiz below, you can take a screenshot of your score and send to your teacher. Remember, you can do the quiz only once, so, be careful to score full in the first attempt!

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For Instant Test, press “Let’s Play” | Click Main Exam

  • Question of

    At the start of the lesson, one feels ___ Tarun.

    • Jealous of
    • Sympathy for
    • angry with
  • Question of

    It was a day he wanted to wipe out from his memory. Which day?

    • When his brother joined college.
    • When he failed in the final exams
    • When he failed in terminal exams
  • Question of

    The sun beat down to check his rage but nothing could stop Tarun. ‘The sun beat down’ means:

    • The sun showed Tarun a way
    • The sun shone brightly on Tarun
    • The sun rose early to cheer Tarun up
  • Question of

    “…he threw himself on a bench and started panting heavily.” Here, “threw” means:

    • Sat down emotionally
    • Fell down on the bench
    • Someone threw him
  • Question of

    “Tarun was a mediocre student.” Mediocre means:

    • Very bad at something
    • Not very good at something
    • Very good at something
  • Question of

    Whenever Tarun was sad and lonely, Tarun ran for long. How did this help him?

    • He could go far away from his home
    • He could practice
    • He could exhaust himself and feel relieved
  • Question of

    Tarun failed in __ subjects in his terminal examinations.

    • 2
    • 3
    • all
  • Question of

    Before meeting Ram Narayan, Tarun:

    • had never heard of him
    • had been trained by him
    • had heard of him
  • Question of

    Why had Tarun not joined any training schools before meeting Ram Narayan?

    • Training locations were far away
    • His father could not afford the expense
    • Tarun preferred self training
  • Question of

    What does pat in ‘pat came the reply’ mean?

    • Instantly.
    • Carefully
    • Carelessly
  • Question of

    What passion did Ram Narayan want in Tarun burning?

    • Passion for being a fast runner
    • Passion to be good at studies
    • Passion for rewards and trophies
  • Question of

    After meeting ram Narayan, Tarun felt:

    • Resentful to his father that he (his father) had not allow him to take training.
    • Thankful to his father for giving an opportunity to meet Ram Narayan.
    • Angry with his father for considering him a ‘black-sheep.’
  • Question of

    Every day, he would get up at four in the morning and run up to ___.

    • ten kilometers
    • 15 miles
    • ten miles
  • Question of

    Tarun’s qualifying event was a ____ race.

    • 1,000-metre
    • 500-metre
    • 1.5 kilometre race
  • Question of

    Why did Tarun tell his mother about the race?

    • He wanted someone to support him
    • He never kept any secret from mother
    • Mother asked him about it
  • Question of

    How did Tarun go to the stadium? (Hint: “pedalled”)

    • Walking
    • By cycle
    • by bus
  • Question of

    How many contestants did participate the race?

    • 50
    • about 50
    • 15
  • Question of

    Who all from Tarun’s family were present at the stadium?

    • Only mother
    • Father and mother
    • All the members
  • Question of

    When Tarun saw his mother in the gallery, he felt:

    • disappointed
    • confident
    • shy
  • Question of

    What was Tarun’s position a few minutes after the whistle was blown for the race?

    • Second
    • Last
    • First
  • Question of

    Tarun could have gone ahead of others if he had not:

    • slipped on a shallow path
    • slipped in mud
    • slipped in water
  • Question of

    How many times did Tarun fall?

    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Question of

    When Tarun reached last in the race, the crowd:

    • laughed at him
    • abused him
    • cheered for him
  • Question of

    When the race ended, Tarun thought that Ram Narayan:

    • would accept him
    • would not accept him
    • would scold him
  • Question of

    Why did Ram Narayan accept Tarun as his trainee?

    • Because Tarun got up each time he fell
    • Because Tarun was ahead of everyone for a few seconds
    • Because he had sympathy for Tarun


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