Anu is the name of one of the children. It can be either a male or female name, and this child is not individualized in the story.
Chauffeur or Driver
The hairy-chested driver is a servant in the family and is in charge of the car and the garage. He lets the children help him wash the car.
The father is in the background since he is at work all day. When he comes home, the family has an evening ritual of being together in the yard.
The gardener gets angry when the children supposedly help him water the garden. He threatens to tell the parents of their bad behavior.
Manu seems to be the youngest child and is hardly aware of how to play hide-and-seek, because he doesn’t run and hide as quickly as the other children do. When he does try to hide, he trips, and Raghu catches him first. In Hinduism, Manu was the name of the progenitor of humans. Most Indian children have the names of gods or heroes.
Mira is a typical Indian big sister who is motherly with the other children. In the absence of the mother, she organizes the children into games when the boys start fighting. She treats the children as children, not as individuals.
The mother of the story is a generic Indian middle-class mother who has many children. The mother manages a large suburban house with servants. She goes to her bath in the afternoon to freshen up for her husband’s return in the evening. When the children nag her continuously about going outside to play, she eventually gives in, though it is too hot. She seems to be a well-meaning mother who has taken care of the children’s primary needs of food, bath, and safety. She intervenes when the children fight and makes them change their game. She does not seem to be especially sensitive to their psychological or emotional needs, as for instance, when Ravi is having a crisis over the game of hide-and-seek. She scolds him for being a baby. She tries to find out if he has physically injured himself but does not attend to his emotional scar.
Raghu is one of the older boys in the family. He is chosen to be It in the game of hide-and-seek. He is big and strong, and plays football (soccer). Ravi speaks of his fast, hairy legs. Ravi feels proud of himself when he outwits this stronger boy. Raghu catches the other children but does not catch Ravi, who has hidden in the shed. Raghu has no sympathy for Ravi’s mistake and pushes him rudely when he cries.
Ravi is the main character of the story. He is one of the smaller boys of the family. He is sensitive and fearful, illustrated by his inner feelings as he takes the game of hiding very seriously. He longs to be admired by the older children, to be a star, a hero, and he thinks he can do it by winning the game of hide-and-seek. He reflects that nothing remarkable has singled him out, as a younger brother. Only once or twice does he remember anyone taking special notice of him. He regards the older children as luckier than he is. Victory over the strong Raghu induces him to be brave in the dark, scary shed. He is more than disappointed that he did not win; he is devastated at being totally forgotten. Ravi’s grief is not understood by the adults or other children. They think he is acting like a baby. He feels left out and unimportant in his world. Ravi is a common name for a boy, like Joe or Jim. It is the name of the sun god in Hinduism. This name seems ironic, since Ravi spends most of his time in the dark, in a sort of eclipse.
Sara Constantakis, Thomas E. Barden – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 28 (2010) – Anita Desai – Published by Gale Cengage Learning.