What is the irony of the situation involved in the conversation between the astrologer and his client, Guru Nayak, in the Story "The Astrologer's Day"?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The irony of the situation centers around the fact that Guru Nayak comes to the astrologer for help in finding and killing the very man he is talking to. No doubt, as soon as he realizes the identity of this client, the astrologer would like to tell his ferocious nemesis that the man he is seeking is dead and buried. But the astrologer wisely refrains from blurting out that misinformation right away. He makes Guru Nayak wait and haggle over money. When he finally calls his client by his name and tells him about what happened back at their village, he has Guru Nayak in the palm of his hand. This comes as astonishing news, not only to the client, but to the reader, who has been given no clue that the astrologer knows this apparent stranger.

"You know my name!" the other said, taken aback.

"As I know all other things. Guru Nayak, listen carefully to what I have to say. Your village is two day's journey due north of this town. Take the next train and be gone. I see once again great danger to your life if you go from home."

The only hint that the astrologer might have recognized Guru Nayak comes when the author writes:

The astrologer sent up a prayer to heaven as the other lit a cheroot. The astrologer caught a glimpse of his face by the matchlight.

The other vendors have put out their lights and gone home. The astrologer and this last-minute customer are practically in pitch darkness. If Guru Nayak had not struck a match the story might have ended differently.

In one of O. Henry's short stories (with which R. K. Narayan may have been familiar) a character reveals his identity when he strikes a match to light his cigar. In "After Twenty Years," 

The man in the doorway struck a match and lit his cigar. The light showed a pale, square-jawed face with keen eyes, and a little white scar near his right eyebrow.His scarf pin was a large diamond, oddly set.

O. Henry does not reveal that the policeman talking to the man in the doorway recognizes him as a wanted man. It is not until the end of the story that the reader understands how "Silky" Bob gave himself away by striking that match.


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gvking | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

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                  The astrologer met his client,at the time of his wayhome,Guru Nayak, whom he stabbed and pushed into a well, when they were drunk and gambling.Being afraid of getting imprisoned for this murder, the astrologer ran off his village and settled as a roadside astrologer to earn a living. 

          The Astrologer is "as much a stranger to the stars as were his innocent customers". His predictions, are a matter of study, practice and shrewd guesswork, which pleased and astonished everyone.

           Guru Nayak came to the village where the astrologer settled in search of the man who stabbed him.Being ignorant of his cutomer, Guru Nayak as the one whom he stabbed, the astrologer sensed him as a possible client and pressed him to chat with him his problem. As typical of all of R.K. Narayan's works, here also we can find the subtle irony and humour. The surroundings of the astrologer plays a better part than astrologer's here - the tamarind tree and the park nearby it; the place is dark and so the astrologer treats Guru Nayak as he treats his all other clientele without being able to see the face of Guru Nayak.

           Guru Nayak challenged the astrologer "You call yourself an astrologer" to the typical talk of astrologer's. The irony spakles here as a lightning,as Guru Nayak revealed unknowingly the fake nature of the astrologer. The astrologer continued his usual gimmicks - "yours is a nature...", but Guru Nayak demanded him to tell something worthwhile. This shows a kind of continuous struggle that R.K.Narayan wanted to create in this story; a man with a slur on him for murdering while gambling, his run for life and the chase of the survived victim to revenge him : A predator and a prey. Here also Narayan infused irony a prey can no longer be stronger than its predator, but Narayan created a prey that is stronger than its predator - An irony of how things naturally work out.

         Thus, Narayan is successful in creating a story of his own genre again : satirical, subtle, good-humoured, simple, intelligible and Indian.


P.S. To know more about the setting of R.K. Narayan's works, Please click the link below