He does not recognize the man because the latter, with his "painted forehead," dark whiskers, and saffron-colored turban, looks every inch an astrologer. However, the astrologer recognizes the client as the victim whom he had knifed years before.
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No wonder he is able to recapitulate the client's past so thoroughly that absolute belief in his prediction of the future now becomes possible for the poor client. The astrologer coolly tells the client that his enemy is now dead, "crushed under a lorry. I see once again great danger to your life if you go from home. The story ends with the astrologer returning home and telling his wife, "Do you know a great load is gone from me today?
I thought I had the blood of a man on my hands all these years.
An Astrologer's Day by R. K. Narayan, 1947
That was the reason why I ran away from home, settled here, and married you. He is alive. At first reading "An Astrologer's Day" appears to be a somewhat uncomplicated story, rather amusing in the O. Henry-like twist, administering a mild shock of surprise to the reader at the end. But Narayan's is an art that conceals art. The deceptive simplicity of the story really hides a multiplicity of ironies. First, as pointed out by the narrator himself, the astrologer is a charlatan with neither the requisite expertise nor the proper training; he just gets by on the strength of common sense, keen observation, and shrewd guesswork.
It is ironic that the false prediction of a fake astrologer should radically change the lives of two men for the better. This might even raise for the perceptive reader the eternal question of "Action" and the "Fruit of Action"—an ethical question raised in the Indian religious classic The Gita. In many other respects the entire situation is ironical: the astrologer is himself the subject of the client's query, and it is his own future he is asked to predict. Never perhaps is prediction so easy for the astrologer and so certain to come true; the astrologer is at first extremely reluctant to advise the client once he recognizes him and is actually forced by the man to do his job.
Had he really declined to predict he would not have had a great weight lifted from his mind, nor would he have been able to ensure a life of peace for himself.
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Furthermore, in this game of one-upmanship each has won in his own way: the astrologer has obviously won by getting rid permanently of an old foe, but the client too has gained a little victory—he had promised a rupee to the astrologer but has actually fobbed him off with only twelve and a half annas; nevertheless, basking in the satisfaction of having saved about a quarter rupee, the poor client is left blissfully unaware of the great opportunity he has missed.
Like most of Narayan's works "An Astrologer's Day" is a story neatly structured, with its action briskly moving toward the snap, surprise ending. The opening, with its rather long description of the astrologer's personal appearance and the setting in which he operates, may at first appear to be a little too leisurely for a short story.
But with its skillful use of color and small details it recaptures evocatively the small-town scene.
Thus the astrologer, with his forehead "resplendent with sacred ash and vermilion," his dark whiskers, and the saffron-colored turban around his head, presents a colorful figure. The E-mail Address es field is required. Please enter recipient e-mail address es. The E-mail Address es you entered is are not in a valid format.
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