An Astrologer’s Day
‘An Astrologer’s Day’ is a short story written by R.K. Narayan who is one of the legendary novelists in Indian English Literature. The author begins the story by explaining the physical appearance of astrologer and his professional equipment which consists of a dozen cowrie shells, a square piece of cloth with obscure mystic charts on it, a note book and a bundle of Palmyra writing. The astrologer is a man with sacred ash and vermilion on his forehead and has a turban around his head. With this costume he attracts people towards him. He begins his daily work every day at midday in a public place under a large tamarind tree that is close to the Town Hall Park. It is a remarkable place in many ways because a variety of trades and occupations such as medicine sellers, vendors of nuts, magicians etc. are represented all along its way. This particular said place is poorly lighted in the evenings and as the astrologer does not have a light on his own depends upon the light rays from the nearby shops. The criss-cross light suits the astrologer very well to cheat the people who dally before him. As a matter of fact, he is not an astrologer by profession but was led into it by circumstances that forced him to leave his native village. He knows least about astrology as well as fortune telling.
The astrologer succeeds in his work because he has a practical knowledge of the common problems of most people – marriage, money and the tangles of human ties. To his advantage the astrologer can understand what is wrong with his clients. For nearly ten minutes he does not even open his mouth and keeps on analyzing the worries and finally gives some suitable advice. With this talent and skill he makes his clients to believe that he has got an unusual ability to tell people’s fortunes.
The real action in the story begins when the nuts vendor “blew out his flare and rose to go home.” By considering it as a signal the astrologer too packs his equipment up to return home but before leaving the place he sees a man standing before him. The astrologer invites the stranger to have a chat with him but the latter refuses and remarks that he cannot be bluffed any more like others. Taking this as a challenge the astrologer begins to tell some incidents about the life of stranger provide that if he pays five rupees. After having a glimpse of the stranger’s face by the match light the astrologer tries to get out of the deal but he is not permitted to leave as the stranger is adamant.
The astrologer then begins to astound the stranger by telling his name and recounting the worst event of the man’s life -- the day he was stabbed and left for dead in a well but was fortunately saved by a bystander. The astrologer tells the stranger that he must stop looking for the man who stabbed him long ago as he was already dead in an accident; instructs him never travel southward again if he wishes to live hundred years. The stranger, not really recognizing the astrologer, not only believed him but also satisfied with the answers given.
Soon after this, the astrologer receives a handful of coins and reaches home almost at midnight. After dinner, he tells his wife that he has been relieved of a great load as the person whom he thought to be dead is alive. He narrates his past life and eventually the wife is gasped but the astrologer starts yawning and stretching himself on the pyol to have sound sleep.
Prepared By: B. Balaji Reddy, Adhoc Lecturer in English, JNTUA COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING, KALIKIRI.