An Astrologer's Day
|"An Astrologer's Day"|
|Author||R. K. Narayan|
|Genre(s)||Thriller, short story, suspense|
|Publisher||Indian Thought Publications|
An Astrologer's Day is a thriller, suspense short story by author R. K. Narayan. While it had been published earlier, it was the titular story of Narayan's fourth collection of short stories published in 1947 by Indian Thought Publications. It was the first chapter of the world famous collection of stories Malgudi Days which was later telecasted on television in 2006.
Fallon and et al. said of the work, "The story is a model of economy without leaving out the relevant detail." Themes found in An Astrologer's Day recur frequently throughout Narayan's work.
The author begins the story by telling the reader the details of the simple life of an astrologer. The street where he operates has many vendors, such as medicine sellers, magicians, etc. The astrologer conducts his business by the "light of a flare which is crackled and smoked up above the groundnut heap nearby" once darkness descends.
The man is not trained to become an astrologer and has little knowledge of the stars but he depends solely on his wits, his power of observation and his insight into the human mind.With experience, he has learned the tricks of the trade. He talks about safe topics like marriage, money and relationships and takes to speak only after the client has revealed enough about himself.
One day, after having finished his daily business, he is about to leave for home when he sees a man close by and hopes to make him a client. The man demands the astrologer tell him something worthwhile about his future. The astrologer tries his usual tricks about talking marriage or money but the man wants to hear answers of his specific questions. At this stage the man lights a cheroot and in the dim light of the matchstick the astrologer looks at the man's face and is unnerved. He tries to withdraw from the challenge and asks him to take his money back but the man holds his wrist and tells him he can not get out now.
The astrologer tells the client that he had been stabbed and pushed into a well presuming he was dead. The astrologer addresses him by his name, Guru Nayak. That impresses Guru Nayak and he tells the astrologer that he is out to seek out the man who stabbed him so that he can take the revenge. The astrologer then informs him that the man who stabbed him had died having been crushed under a lorry four months earlier and that Nayak's life was not safe so he should return to his village immediately and warns him not to travel in that direction again. Satisfied with the answer, Nayak gives him some coins and leaves feeling happy at the thought that the man he wanted to kill is already dead. The astrologer comes home and tells his wife that a big load was off his mind that day because he had discovered that the man he thought he had murdered years back in his native village and because of whom he had left home, was in fact alive. He also realizes that Nayak had given him less money than he had promised.
The story is titled An Astrologer's Day and not The Astrologer's Day and that is where lies the aptness of the title. Though it is the story of a particular incident in the life of an astrologer, the major part of the story describes a day in the life of any astrologer in India who sits on the pavement to read palms to tell the future of men. The man has spread before him his Professional equipment which consists of cowry shells, Palmyra writing and mystic charts which he can not read. To add to that is his saffron colored turban and his tilak which are enough to invite the trust of a common man who generally frequents this type of narrow road described in the story. Till the time the reader encounters Guru Nayak, the description given of the astrologer is that of any roadside astrologer in a town. The man transacts his business purely on his wits and the ignorance of his clients. Moreover, what leads the reader to believe that this is the story of any astrologer is the fact that the author has not given him a name- he is simply referred to as The astrologer. The title suggest that the reader is going to read about the life of an astrologer and that is what he learns about and in that respect it is acclaimed as an appropriate title to the story.
Features of the story
- The ironical fact about the protagonist is that a gambler and a murderer, who is ignorant of his own future has become an astrologer.
- The writer reveals how the only qualification needed to be an astrologer in India is saffron clothes, a few charts and tilak and a keen observation of human nature along with a presence of mind.
- The astrologer should have been greatly relieved that he is not a murderer after all and he has managed to put Guru Nayak off, and he should not have bothered about how much money he had received. Yet, when he realizes Nayak has cheated him of some money he is angry.
- Irony of fate
- Religion and blind faith
- Crime and Punishment
- Human Greed
- Fallon, Erin; Feddersen, R.C.; Kurtzleben, James; Lee, Maurice A.; Rochette-Crawley, Susan (31 October 2013). A Reader's Companion to the Short Story in English. New York, NY: Routledge. p. 304. ISBN 1-57958-353-9.
- A Treasure Trove of Short Stories, by S.Chakravarthi, p-3
- "Malgudi Days on DD1". The Hindu. May 12, 2006. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
- Indispensable workbook, by Usha Nagpal, National Publication House, p-8