An Astrologer's Day

by R. K. Narayan
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What is the  irony in "An Astrologer's Day"?

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There are many ironic aspects to "An Astrologer's Day." For example, it is ironic that Guru Nayak should end up paying the astrologer to tell him where to find the man he is looking for, when the man he is looking for is the astrologer himself. The main irony is that the protagonist was forced to flee from the village where both he and Guru Nayak lived, because the protagonist had stabbed Guru Nayak and left him for dead. Even if he hadn't killed Guru Nayak but had only wounded him, he would have had to flee anyway, because the ferocious Guru Nayak would have wanted revenge. So the protagonist came to a big city and had to find some way to survive. He was an ignorant peasant. There were hordes of others like him who couldn't find work. Many died of starvation and their corpses were hauled away in carts each morning. Out of sheer desperation the protagonist tried becoming an astrologer. He must have acquired the so-called "professional equipment" for virtually nothing. Perhaps he found it where it had been abandoned by another astrologer who had died of starvation. It is obviously nothing but a lot of old junk. Then the ironic feature is that Guru Nayak comes to him just because he is posing as an astrologer. Guru Nayak has been looking for him for a long time, and in that time he has acquired a deep suspicion of astrologers, although he is still sufficiently superstitious to consult them. We see his skepticism in his opening dialogue with the astrologer.

"Yours is a nature . . . " "Oh, stop that," the other said. "Tell me something worth while. . . ." 


"I have some questions to ask. If I prove you are bluffing, you must return that anna to me with interest."


"Stop," said the other. "I don't want all that. Shall I succeed in my present search or not? Answer this and go. Otherwise I will not let you go till you disgorge all your coins."

The astrologer is only saved by the darkness and by the fact that Guru Nayak lights up a cheroot and reveals his face. This gives the astrologer an opportunity to show that he really has uncanny knowledge. At this point even the reader is amazed. The astrologer is able to tell his nemesis his name and what happened to him in his village. Once he has convinced the dangerous man of his supernatural ability, he is also able to convince him that the enemy he is looking for is dead and can persuade Guru Nayak to go back to his village and remain there for the rest of his life. 

The most ironic thing about "An Astrologer's Day" is that the astrologer and Guru Nayak should meet again in this tiny spot beneath a tamarind tree. It is not a mere coincidence. Guru Nayak has been searching all over for the man who stabbed him. He has been consulting many astrologers. It was perhaps inevitable that he would eventually encounter this particular astrologer. We might call it "fate."

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