In the short story “An Astrologer's Day,” the protagonist pretends to be a diviner who reads the stars in order to tell people their fortunes. The statement
He was as much a stranger to the stars as were his innocent customers
reveals his true identity as a fraud. In other words, he is as familiar with and knowledgeable about astrological signs as his hapless clients are. Like his ignorant customers, he cannot understand the stars but pretends that he knows what they say about peoples’ lives. He then peddles this fake knowledge as truths to willing listeners.
Although author R. K. Narayan never discloses the protagonist’s name, he reveals how the character became an astrologer:
He had left his village without any previous thought or plan. If he had continued there he would have carried on the work of his forefathers namely, tilling the land, living, marrying, and ripening in his cornfield and ancestral home. But that was not to be.
He escapes from his former community and cannot continue his family’s lineage and farming traditions. Instead, he unwittingly becomes an astrologer to earn money. Admittedly, this charlatan cannot predict other people’s futures any more than he can his own.
To fool people into thinking that he does have divine powers, though, he cleverly asks them questions, observes their reactions, and formulates their fortunes. His method is “study, practice, and shrewd guesswork.” Most importantly, he figures out and knows what to say in order to please and amaze his customers:
He had a working analysis of mankind’s troubles: marriage, money, and the tangles of human ties. Long practice had sharpened his perception. Within five minutes he understood what was wrong. He charged three pies per question, never opened his mouth till the other had spoken for at least ten minutes, which provided him enough stuff for a dozen answers and advices.
His strategy is three-fold. First, he pretends to read the customer’s palm and states general, probable, and irrefutable statements like “In many ways you are not getting the fullest results for your efforts” in order to establish authority and connection. Then he collects information on the customer’s background (family, relationships). Finally, he offers an alleged analysis of the customer’s character with references to planets and flattering statements.
Despite being a “stranger to the stars” and con artist to “innocent” customers, the protagonist considers his work to be honest labor that earns him deserved wages.