This title story in Anita Desai’s acclaimed collection Games at Twilight, and Other Stories (1978) deals with a universal theme of children at play and their fantasies and disillusionment. Desai begins the story objectively from the third-person vantage, but as the action progresses and the tension mounts, she skillfully shifts the narrative focus to the consciousness of the central character, Ravi. The story is remarkable for its insights into child psychology, powerful evocation of atmosphere, vivid imagery, and symbolic use of setting.
The story opens on a hot summer afternoon in an urban house in India. The children who have been kept indoors all day to escape the oppressive heat of the sun feel confined and suffocated, and when they are finally unleashed, they thrill with joy and excitement and decide to play a game of hide-and-seek.
Raghu, being the eldest, is chosen to be “it”—the seeker. All the other children run helter-skelter to find a suitable hiding place. Ravi hides behind the locked garage. When he hears his little brother crying because he has been caught by Raghu, he panics. As Raghu’s whistling and the thumping sound of his feet grow louder, in a moment of fright Ravi suddenly slips through a small gap into an abandoned shed next to the garage. From this moment on, the narrative filters through Ravi’s consciousness and the reader is brought into the deepest reaches of his psyche.
(The entire section is 523 words.)