An Astrologer’s Day
The story opens with an account of the place and environment in which an astrologer meets his clients and does his work. Every day he starts his work at midday, under a tamarind tree that is close to a public park in the town.
The place which the astrologer chooses for his work is generally full of people who pass by or gather there. They are attracted by vendors of nuts, medicines, stolen hardware, etc. It is a place poorly lighted in the evening. The astrologer has to depend on lights coming from the flickering lamps kept by neighboring vendors because he has no light of his own. The astrologer knows nothing about astrology, but with his experience he manages to earn money which he carries home at the end of a day. He has a working analysis of the common problems of most people. He makes people believe that he has an unusual ability to tell people’s fortunes.
One evening, the nuts- vendor blows out the light and is ready to go home. This compels the astrologer to leave the place. When he picks up his stuff and puts into a bag, a stranger stands before him. Seeing the opportunity for one more possible client, the astrologer invites the stranger to sit and chat. The stranger challenges saying that if the astrologer gives him the right answers for his questions, he will give him eight annas and if he fails, the astrologer will have to pay him back twice the amount. The astrologer happily accepts his challenge. But when he sees the stranger’s face from the light of a match stick, he feels very uncomfortable and quickly gives back anna he has taken.
The stranger holds the astrologer in his grip and says that he can’t get out now. The astrologer finally agrees to speak for a rupee. He tells the stranger that he was once stabbed through the chest and left for dead. The stranger is excited at the information and exclaims that the only thing he wants to know from the astrologer is when he can find the assaulter. The astrologer instantly replies that the culprit had died being crushed under a lorry four months ago. The astrologer calls the stranger by his name ‘Guru Nayak’ and advises him to return to his hometown immediately as his life is in danger. He gives the astrologer money and leaves.
The astrologer reaches home late night. His wife is very happy with his earning. But he is upset since he is cheated by Guru Nayak not paying him as much as promised. As they lie down to sleep, he reveals to his wife that he has got rid of a great burden. He confesses to his wife that in his youth he was into bad company. One day he drank, gambled and quarreled badly. He had a fight and stabbed Guru Nayak and left him for dead. He thought himself to be murderer. This was the reason why he fled from his home and started a new life in the town. But now he is content that he had not in fact taken a life. Satisfied by this, he goes to sleep.
Answer the following questions.
- How does the astrologer’s appearance help him attract customers? How does he help the customers satisfy their needs?
His forehead is bright with sacred ash and vermilion. His eyes are assumed to have a prophetic light by his customers. He wears a saffron turban. He presents himself so perfectly that he is a point of attraction for all the people. He helps the customers satisfy their needs with his working analysis of their troubles like marriage, money, etc.
- How do you characterise the astrologer’s attitude toward the stranger?
The astrologer sees the stranger before him and perceives him to be his possible customer.
- What details does the astrologer give the stranger about his past?
The astrologer tells the astrologer that he was stabbed by a knife and thrown into a well to die, and some passers-by saw him and saved from dying.
- Why does he advise the stranger to go home immediately?
He advises the stranger to go home immediately to get rid of danger in his life.
- What is your reaction to the conversation between the astrologer and his wife?
I feel gratified that the astrologer has got rid of his guilt and fear and managed to earn a little extra money that day. I get struck by the picture of the simple lives these people lead. The astrologer’s whole collection of coins for one day is only enough to keep them alive until the next day.
Reference to the context
- Suspense is the feeling of anticipation you may have as you read. In this story, what details contributed to your feelings of suspense and surprise? Explain.
The feeling of suspense is created about the personal and past life of the astrologer. The reader is told that he was not intended to be an astrologer. He left his village without any previous plan. The reader is also told that astrology is not his family business. This creates curiosity in the mind of the reader about the reason why he broke this ancestral cycle and was forced him to leave his home all of a sudden. The sense of suspense continues with the astrologer’s encounter with the stranger. The astrologer catches a glimpse of the stranger’s face in the flash of light created by the matchstick, and immediately disagrees to accept the stranger’s challenge. At the end of the story, the reader is surprised with revelation of the fact that the astrologer was the person who stabbed the stranger and left for dead when he was drunk during one of his days as a youngster.
- Analyze the conflicts in “An Astrologer’s Day.” Explain how the conflicts are resolved and what they reveal about the characters involved in the story.
In the story, conflict takes place when a stranger as the astrologer’s client, appears in the scene to be consulted. The astrologer is packing up his stuff and ready to call it a day. The stranger challenges the astrologer to provide specific answers for his questions. As the stranger lits his cheroot, he catches a glimpse of his face by the match light and for some unclear reasons the astrologer feels uncomfortable and rejects the challenge. But, he is forced to tell the stranger something that will satisfy him. The stranger is surprised to be told about his past life by the astrologer, and agrees to give up his search for his enemy who was declared to have been crushed under a lorry. The astrologer ensures a safe and secure life for himself hereafter.
- “All right. I will speak. But will you give me a rupee if what I say is convincing? Otherwise I will not open my mouth, and you may do what you like.”
- Who is the speaker?
- ii. Who is he speaking to?
- iii. What does the expression ‘open my mouth’ mean?
- The astrologer is the speaker.
- ii. He is speaking to Guru Nayak.
- iii. The expression ‘open my mouth’ means to utter some convincing information about the stranger.
- Description helps readers visualize what is happening in a story. What details and techniques does the author use to describe the astrologer?
The astrologer is an impressive character. He is able to develop a new personality and survive in a densely populated urban environment by using his intelligence. The astrologer lives by his wits. Despite having no mystical knowledge he knows how to put on a show to attract passers-by. It is obvious that he must sit for long hours in order to collect enough to keep himself and his family alive from day to day. In addition to his intelligence, he is courageous and determined. When he is dealing with Guru Nayak and his life is in danger, he still insists on bargaining for money. He brings every single anna home to his wife so that she can buy food for the family. He is a devoted husband and father.
The story has the mode of third-person omniscience. The use of dialogue throughout the story serves the function of providing multiple points of view without changing the overall authority of the narrator. The story is set in the Town Hall Park, in the late evening. The reader learns that the astrologer is usually under the tamarind tree by noon.
- Irony is a contrast between appearances and reality. What is ironic about Guru Nayak’s meeting with the astrologer?
The irony of the situation centers around the meeting of Guru Nayak’s meeting with the astrologer. He comes to the astrologer for help in finding and killing the man he is talking to. The man whom Guru Nayak is looking for is none other than the astrologer himself. As soon as the astrologer recognizes the man, he feels very uncomfortable. But the astrologer wisely misinforms him. He makes Guru Nayak wait and bargain for money. When he finally calls the stranger by his name and tells him about the incident that happened in the village, he has Guru Nayak in the palm of his hand.
- How does the astrologer’s manner of dress suit his character?
The astrologer is the protagonist of the story. The initial part of the story describes the outfit and the appearance that the astrologer carries when he performs his duty. He is dressed typically like an astrologer. His forehead is bright with sacred ash and vermilion. He winds a saffron-coloured turban around his head. His dress and appearance suit his character and becomes a center of attraction. They are easily fooled by the astrologer with his wits. He is intelligent and has his shrewd ways to go about his profession. He has a working analysis of mankind’s troubles.