An Astrologer's Day

by R. K. Narayan

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Why did the astrologer run from his village in "An Astrologer's Day"?

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The astrologer explains to his wife why he ran away from his village.

"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. That was the reason why I ran away from home, settled here, and married you. He is alive."

The astrologer's last client was a ferocious man who was trying to find the man who had stabbed him in a quarrel many years before. The astrologer is able to recognize his client, but the client does not recognize him because it is nighttime and the lighting is very poor. Narayan makes a point of explaining that the astrologer's little space under the tamarind tree has no artificial lighting and that at night he is dependent on the lights from nearby shops. He decides to pack up and go home because his neighbor has blown out his flare and has risen to leave. Without that light the astrologer would stand little chance of attracting any more customers.

However, he does have one last client, who turns out to be the man he thought he had murdered. In his role as an astrologer he is able to tell the man about the incident and make a strong impression on him. Then he uses his authority, now verified by his knowledge of his customer's identity and past history, to advise him to go back to his native village.

"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."

He assures the customer that the man he is seeking (i.e., himself) died four months ago by being crushed under a lorry. The customer believes him and even rewards him with a handful of coins. Both the astrologer and his customer have benefited from the encounter. The customer is satisfied that his enemy is dead, and the astrologer feels relieved that he did not really kill the man he thought he had killed. Not only that, but he can live in safety because his nemesis will certainly take his advice and leave forever by the next train.

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