This short story is all about growing up and learning about one's true insignificance in the grand scheme of things. The story explores the way in which children play games that teach them important life lessons about life. Ravi, through finding an excellent hiding place, technically wins the game of hide and seek, but little does he realise that he has hidden himself so well that the other children have moved on to a different game and forgotten him. Note how he thinks of the praise and honour he will win whilst hiding:
What fun if they were all found and caught--he alone left unconquered! He had never known that sensation.. He hugged his knees close together and smiled to himself almost shyly at the thought of so much victory, such laurels.
Of course, the reality is very different, and Ravi comes out of his hiding place only to find the children playing a game about death and dying. It is clear that this is no coincidence, as Ravi himself must die a kind of death to do with his innocence and youth. He realises the "terrible sense of his own insignificance" and this represents the death of his childhood and the beginning of his adulthood where he realises he is not the centre of the universe. This story then is all about growing up and the necessary steps that one has to go through in order to leave childhood behind and become an adult.
In what ways does anita desai make the central character so pitiable?