The Taste of an Hilsa: BSEM Class 9 English questions, answers

The Taste of an Hilsa
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Get summary, workbook solutions, questions, answers, notes, pdf, and extras to the story “The Taste of an Hilsa” by Nongthombam Kunjamohan Singh, which is a part of Class 9 English syllabus for students studying under Manipur Board (BSEM).


The story opens on a predawn morning with Chaoba and his young son Mani setting out on the waters of the river Barak to catch fish. Mani starts dozing off as he rows the boat, so Chaoba gives him a bidi to smoke to stay awake. The sound of the sadhu’s morning prayer indicates that dawn is approaching. Other fishermen also start arriving on the river.

Chaoba and Mani try their luck fishing near the eddy of Langor Baaba, which is considered risky but often has good catches. Their efforts are in vain, so they move downstream, where they finally manage to catch a large, white Hilsa fish, much to their delight. However, Chaoba admonishes Mani not to express happiness loudly in case others hear about their valuable catch.

Soon, an old, miserly man from the rich Naorem family calls out from the riverbank, asking to buy their fish. Chaoba dislikes this man’s stinginess in bargaining and cheating poor fishermen on prices, so he refuses to sell despite the man’s persistent demands. Mani also tells Chaoba that the Naorem man’s son recently beat him.

They overhear another fisherman named Rahimuddin, who has caught three fish. Rahimuddin boasts that he sold them for four rupees each. In contrast, Chaoba decides not to sell his lone catch. He wants to cook it as a special meal for his pregnant daughter Sanarei, as it’s been long since his poverty-stricken family tasted Hilsa fish.

When Chaoba and Mani return home, the direness of their poverty is evident. His wife and daughter inform him sorrowfully that there is no rice left for a meal. Chaoba lashes out angrily at his chronically sick wife, blaming her for not dying instead of just lying in bed.

A creditor named Konsam Kanhai inquires whether Chaoba caught any Hilsa. Chaoba denies catching any fish to avoid Kanhai demanding repayment of the money owed and taking away the fish. But Chaoba’s little son, Mukta, innocently contradicts his lie. Mukta is very happy about the fish and is looking forward to eating it.

Soon, another fisherman named Thaninjao arrives, offering to buy the Hilsa for 3.5 rupees. With no rice at home, Chaoba reluctantly sells his prized catch to Thaninjao to buy food for his starving family. 

When Thaninjao is leaving the house with the fish, little Mukta complains to his father that their fish is being taken away. Thaninjao declares that he has paid for it, which makes Mukta sad and he just stares at the fish.

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Textual notes


(A) Based on your reading of the text, answer the follow up questions by choosing the correct options:

I. The morning prayer of the Sadhu indicated

a. the approach of dawn.
b. the coming of storm.
c. that he was awake.
d. that the people should awake.

Answer: a. the approach of dawn.

II. Chaoba chides Mani when he exclaims in delight because

a. somebody might hear it.
b. he felt it was not good to speak like that
c. he would disturb the peace of the dawn
d. the fish might run away.

Answer: b. he felt it was not good to speak like that

III. Chaoba had to sell the fish because

a. he wanted a huge profit.
b. he had to buy rice.
c. he wanted to do Thaninjao a favour.
d. he wanted to teach his son a lesson.

Answer: b. he had to buy rice. 

(B) Fill in the blanks

a. The father and the son are rowing towards the eddy of ______.

Answer: Langor Baaba.

b. When father and the son arrive at their home the day has well ____.

Answer: advanced.

c. Probably because of its _____ the dog is not hit.

Answer: innocence.

d. The child remains _____. He simply stares at the fish and ____ still.

Answer: mum; stays.

(C) Answer the following questions briefly

I. Where do Chaoba and Mani set out to fish before dawn?

Answer: Chaoba and Mani set out to fish towards the eddy of Langor Baaba before dawn.

II. What is the prayer of the sadhu in the morning?

Answer: The prayer of the sadhu in the morning is “Bom Bholenath Jai Siva Sambhu.”

III. Why is Chaoba reluctant to sell the fish to the old man of the Naorem family?

Answer: Chaoba is reluctant to sell the fish to the old man of the Naorem family because he knows the man would not give a proper price and would bargain excessively.

IV. Why did Mani hate to see the old man of Naorem?

Answer: Mani hated to see the old man of Naorem because the old man’s son, Tomal, had beaten him.

V. Who were the other fishermen at the river besides Chaoba and Mani?

Answer: Other fishermen at the river besides Chaoba and Mani included Rahimuddin and his son.

VI. What was the talk between Chaoba and Rahimuddin about?

Answer: The talk between Chaoba and Rahimuddin was about the fish they had caught and their selling price.

VII. Whom did Chaoba want to feed the fish?

Answer: Chaoba wanted to feed the fish to his daughter, Sanarei, who was in an advanced stage of pregnancy.

VIII. What did Tampha tell his father when he returned home?

Answer: When Chaoba returned home, Tampha told him that there was no rice for the meal.

IX. Why does Chaoba shudder when he hears the voice of Konsam Kanhai?

Answer: Chaoba shudders when he hears Konsam Kanhai’s voice because he remembers the debt he owes to Kanhai.

X. Why does Chaoba throw the wooden stool at the dog?

Answer: Chaoba throws the wooden stool at the dog in a moment of anger and frustration due to his poverty and the lack of rice at home.

XI. How does little Mukta react when he sees the fish being taken away?

Answer: Little Mukta remains silent and simply stares at the fish as it is taken away.

(D) Answer the following questions in about 80 words each

I. Write a note on the harsh life of a fisherman.

Answer: The life of a fisherman, as depicted in the story, encapsulates the relentless and often unforgiving nature of their work. They start their day before dawn, venturing into the unpredictable environment of rivers or seas. Their income is directly tied to their catch, which is never guaranteed, adding a layer of financial instability to their lives. The physical toll of this profession is significant, involving long hours in harsh weather conditions. Moreover, fishermen must constantly adapt to changing tides and weather, making their job not only physically demanding but also mentally challenging. The story poignantly captures this struggle, highlighting the resilience and determination required to sustain such a livelihood.

II. Under what circumstances does Chaoba have to sell the hilsa?

Answer: Chaoba’s decision to sell the hilsa fish is driven by the dire financial circumstances of his family. The story reveals the harsh realities of poverty, where even the joy of a special meal is overshadowed by basic survival needs. Chaoba, who had hoped to keep the fish for his pregnant daughter, faces the tough reality that his family lacks enough rice to eat. This situation is emblematic of the constant sacrifices made by those living in poverty, where immediate necessities often outweigh personal desires or plans. The narrative illustrates how poverty can force individuals to make difficult choices, prioritising the urgent need for sustenance over familial bonds and personal wishes.

Think and Answer

I. Do you think that the selling of the fish by Chaoba at the end of the story is justifiable? Give reasons for your answer.

Answer: The decision of Chaoba to sell the fish can be seen as justifiable due to the dire circumstances he faces. Despite his initial intention to provide a special meal for his pregnant daughter, the immediate need to buy rice for his family takes precedence. This decision reflects the harsh realities of poverty, where basic survival often overrides personal desires or plans. Chaoba’s action illustrates the tough choices made by those struggling with poverty, emphasising the necessity of prioritising immediate needs over emotional or familial considerations.

II. Why does Chaoba say furiously to his wife, “Let you die if you are going to die”?

Answer: Chaoba’s harsh words to his wife stem from a culmination of frustration and despair. Faced with extreme poverty, the burden of being unable to provide for his family, and the stress of owing debts, his patience wears thin. This outburst, though seemingly cruel, is an expression of his overwhelming sense of helplessness and the pressure of his responsibilities. It underscores the emotional toll poverty can take, leading to moments of intense anger and desperation, even towards loved ones. Chaoba’s words are less a reflection of his feelings towards his wife and more a manifestation of his dire circumstances.


I. Discuss among yourselves why do people sometimes blame others when they themselves are suffering?

Answer: People often blame others when suffering due to a combination of frustration, helplessness, and the need to express their distress. Suffering can cloud judgement, making it difficult to see the situation objectively. Blaming others provides a temporary escape from personal responsibility and pain. It’s a defence mechanism, shielding individuals from fully confronting their own role or the complex nature of their predicament.

II. Irony refers to a situation when what happens is opposite to what one thinks or plans. In light of this, discuss and bring out the element of irony the story contains.

Answer: The story presents irony through Chaoba’s situation. He plans to provide a special meal for his pregnant daughter but is forced to sell the fish to buy rice, highlighting the unexpected and often cruel twists of fate. This illustrates the irony of life, especially under the strain of poverty, where personal desires and plans are frequently upended by harsh realities, leading to outcomes starkly different from one’s hopes or expectations.


Fill in the blanks in each sentence with a suitable word from the list given

predicament, inhale, drift, embankment, persistent, grumble, treat

I. ____long and fill your lungs with morning air.

Answer: Inhale

II. Chaoba gave us a good ____ in his birthday party.

Answer: Treat

III. You have been lying all the time and so now you find yourself in a bad ____.

Answer: Predicament

IV. Don’t ____ all the time. It is a bad habit.

Answer: Grumble

V. ____ rain has made life miserable for everyone.

Answer: Persistent

VI. I am afraid the flood water will break the ____.

Answer: Embankment

VII. I saw a boat ____ is the current.

Answer: Drift

Writing Practice

You have lost your English Text book in the school. Write a notice to be put up on the ‘Lost and Found’ bulletin board asking the finder to return it to you. 



I have misplaced my English textbook, last seen on January 3rd, possibly in the school library. The book is a hardcover, ‘Oxford English Literature’, with a blue cover and my name, ‘Shyam Singh’, written on the inside cover. If found, please return it to me, Shyam, in Class 9. Your assistance in returning my textbook would be greatly appreciated. 

Thank you!
Shyam Singh
Class 10B

Extra MCQs

1. What was the family’s financial condition in the story?

A. Wealthy B. Comfortable C. Poor D. Average

Answer: C. Poor

2. What did the father plan to do with the Hilsa fish initially?

A. Sell it B. Gift it C. Cook it D. Release it

Answer: C. Cook it

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17. What interrupts Mani’s father before he can finish scolding his wife?

A. Kanhai calling B. Thaninjao arriving C. A catch in the fishing net  D. His daughter bringing tea

Answer: B. Thaninjao arriving

Extra Questions and Answers

1. What does Mani’s father warn him about when he finds Mani dozing off?

Answer: Mani’s father warns him about the approaching sunrise, suggesting the urgency of their task. He humorously threatens to rub Mani’s eyes with hot pepper to wake him up. He also offers him a bidi.

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11. Discuss the significance of the Hilsa fish in the story and its metaphorical representation.

Answer: The Hilsa fish is more than just a catch; it’s a metaphor for opportunity and the fleeting nature of fortune. For Mani’s family, it represents a rare chance to improve their situation, highlighting themes of hope and aspiration. The fish’s journey through the story mirrors life’s unpredictability and the characters’ reactions to changing fortunes, showcasing human nature in facing luck and adversity.

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