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Full text of "An Astrologers Day"

Money Back Guarantee. He does that effectively by giving the impression of a holy man whose special powers enable him to function as an astrologer. Almost casually, the surroundings of the astrologer begin to take shape. While there are no clear references to a particular city, it is likely, since Narayan consistently uses the fictional city of Malgudi, that this story too takes place in Malgudi.

In any event, one gets the impression of a somewhat backward city which still retains a measure of its rural. The reference to "municipal lighting" is one of the strategies employed by the author to suggest a sense of the place.

An Astrologer's Day by R. K. Narayan, 1947

But, in fact, the story is a tightly knit one in which all parts fit He begins his work every day at midday in a public place under a large tree that is close to a public park in his town. The place chosen for his work is generally full of people who pass by or gather there, such as customers attracted by vendors of nuts, sweetmeats, and other snacks.

It is a place poorly lighted in the evening, and because the astrologer has no light of his own, he must depend on what light comes from the flickering lamps kept I turned the page once, then just once morealready, white space was signaling the finish. How could this be? I wondered. Were just getting started.

I anticipated a sketch, a vignette at best. But in spite of their signature shortness there is nothing scant about Narayans stories, no sense of having been deprived as we feel these days on airplanes, when we are handed Lilliputian meals in the name of dinner.


In the course of four and a half pages, An Astrologers Day erects, complicates, and alters a life, and this is the difference between mere description and drama. In the first sentence the title character is a faceless stranger to us; by the last, he is a man guilty of attempted murder with whom we nevertheless sympathize. The plot hinges on a suspenseful action. We hold our breath, fearing one thing only to discover another. The resulting effect is what novelists across the globe struggle, over the course of their lifetimes and in the space of hundreds more pages, to achieve.

It is what R. Narayan quietly renders 32 times in this book. An Astrologers Day contains an image that is a perfect metaphor for Narayans artistry. The astrologer works cheek-by-jowl with a series of vendors plying their wares in relative darkness. Narayan writes, The astrologer transacted his business by the light of a flare which crackled and smoked up above the groundnut heap nearby.

Half the enchantment of the place was due to the fact that it did not have the benefit of municipal lighting.

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The place was lit up by shop lights. One or two had hissing gaslights, some had naked flares stuck on poles, some were lit up by old cycle lights and one or two, like the astrologers, managed without lights of their own. In the story, a man comes up to the astrologer and demands his fortune after the neighboring flare has been extinguished, and so the astrologer must work under even more compromised circumstances, glimpsing his subjects face in the seconds it takes to light a cheroot.

The glimpse gives the astrologer enough information to proceed with his work. It is that sudden outburst of intense light upon a characters world that Narayan provides again and again, in narratives that die down almost as soon as they begin, but in the course of which entire lives are powerfully illuminated.

He is working in a busy, unnamed city, and the author establishes that, in reality, he is a charlatan with no special powers other than the keen ability to judge character. The astrologer is about to return to his home at the end of the day when he is stopped by an unusually aggressive customer.

The customer insists that the astrologer tell him the truth about his life, and that if he does not, he should return his the customer's money, along with extra, as payment for having lied. The astrologer, realizing that he will most likely be exposed, tries to get out of the deal, but the customer is adamant. The story takes an unexpected turn, when, unbeknownst to the customer, the astrologer recognizes him and tells him about something that happened in the past. Calling the customer by name, the astrologer recounts how the customer had once been stabbed and left for dead, but had been saved by a bystander.

An Astrologer's Day and Other Stories

The astrologer tells the customer that he must stop looking for the man who stabbed him so long ago, because to do so would be dangerous, and anyway, the perpetrator is dead. The customer, not recognizing the astrologer, is impressed that he should know about his past. When the astrologer goes home, his wife asks about his day. He tells her that he has been relieved of a great load; he had once thought that he had killed someone, but had today discovered that the victim was well and very much alive.

The wfe is mystified, but the astrologer goes to bed for an untroubled night of sleep.