Sreekumar K Facilitator, L’ecole Chempaka International, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Games at Twilight by Anita Desai describes a simple ordinary evening game in the life of some boys and makes it into a metaphor of life. However, the story does not stoop down to the level of a moral lesson or philosophic discourse. The writer achieves this by focusing more on the details about this story
Ravi plays a game of ‘hide and seek’ with his friends. He finds an old shed and hides in it for a long time so that he will be the only one whom no one can find. Being in the dark shed among insects and other potential dangers is excruciating for him. But he stands all that to get appreciation and acknowledgement. On the contrary when he comes out he finds that he was not much and that his friends are already into a new game. They ask him to join in but he is too hurt for anything.
The story also features a good number of events that happen around the kids. The effect of their nose that disturb the birds, people sleeping undisturbed, and the various quarrels and conflicts among the children. The internal conflicts of Ravi, the central character, are also well depicted.
The title itself gives a clue to the metaphorical layer of the story. The children are playing the game late in the evening and darkness engulf s them during the game. Darkness, when taken as death, and children as adults, the twilight becomes the evening in any one’s life. Thus the story is a comment on our activities towards the evening of our life.
We all tend to live in the minds of other people and we want approval and attention from them. Our whole life pivots on that. We even try to be inconspicuous (hide) to be conspicuous or to be missed. We think that after our death, we will be missed much. If we have a chance to stay around after our death we are sure to be disappointed. Life goes on and we are not missed as thought we would be.
On another level, since we have carved a niche in other people’s hearts and love to live there more than anywhere else, not to be missed or go unacknowledged is like death for us. We want others to feel that we exist. Unless they comment on our existence and the quality of our existence we feel ill at ease.
The specific detailed description of the story is supposed to make it more realistic so that it won’t read like an allegory. But life has fractal structures and any single incident in our life is an image of the whole life itself. Thus a game at twilight symbolizes almost like in an allegory, life itself. We live a life of ‘hide and seek’ and like a game we hide to be sought out. We stay away to be acknowledged. We disagree when someone points this out us but get shattered when our hiding goes unacknowledged.
Even if we see this as a story of the interaction among children during a game, this qualifies as a good story. It becomes a great story when we look at it from a figurative point of view. The twilight, the boy lying on the grass and the children going on with their games and the nature functioning on its own are all clues that there is more to this story (life) than meets the eye.