What do you think the writer means by describing the children's play as "the business of the day?"
In the story, the author describes the children's play as 'the business of the children's day.' There are two underlying assumptions here. First, the business of children is to play; through play, children engage in the business of learning, exploring, and exercising. Many psychologists have classified the art of play as the true business of children. Sigmund Freud hypothesized that children play to act out their frustrations and to design a different, far more pleasurable construct to that engendered by a previously traumatic paradigm. He considered play therapeutic for children, and it certainly is true in Ravi's case.
Psychologists on child's play.
Ravi sees the shed as a sort of saving grace. There, in the dark recesses of the sinister shadows, he was to prove his capability and his relevance to the society of his peers. Instead, the shed only prolongs his humiliating defeat and further illuminates his consistent helplessness at being marginalized. By the time he pitifully cries to his peers that his small achievement is worthy of recognition, Ravi's composure is in ruins.
“I won, I won, I won,” he bawled, shaking his head so that the big tears flew. “Raghu didn’t find me. I won, I won——”
In the story, the children's play in Desai's tale also illuminates the major theme of the story, which is that reality often intrudes on fantasy. Ravi spends so much time dreaming up satisfying victories that he ultimately forgets the last step to claiming those victories. Also, in reality, children's concerns are often overlooked by adults, older children, and other peers. The story ends with Ravi contemplating his own insignificance in the big scheme of things. At some point in our lives, all of us come to realize our own fallibility and helplessness, just as Ravi does. Child's play in Anita Desai's story highlights how the child in all of us needs to recognize alienation as the human experience and take steps to achieve our own self-actualization despite this challenge.