An Astrologer's Day

by R. K. Narayan

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An Astrologer's Day Summary

An Astrologer’s Day” by R. K. Narayan is about an astrologer who meets a man who challenges him to tell his fortune. 

  • The astrologer tells Guru Nayak that he was once left for dead by another man, who had attacked him with a knife; Nayak, astonished by the astrologer’s knowledge, wants to know if his assailant is alive. 
  • The astrologer, addressing Nayak by name, adds that his assailant is now dead and that he should go back to his village and live out his life peacefully.
  • In a twist, it is revealed that it was the astrologer himself who fought Nayak many years ago.


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Last Updated November 29, 2023.

The story begins with a description of the place and environment in which the astrologer meets his clients and does his work. He begins his work every day at midday in a public place under a large tree that is close to a public park in his town. The place chosen for his work is generally full of people who pass by or gather there, such as customers attracted by vendors of nuts, sweetmeats, and other snacks. It is a place poorly lighted in the evening, and because the astrologer has no light of his own, he must depend on what light comes from the flickering lamps kept by neighboring vendors; a dully lighted, murky place is best for his purpose. He is not an astrologer by profession but was led into it by circumstances that forced him to leave his village, where, if he had stayed, he would have settled down to a life of tilling the land.

He has a practical knowledge of the common problems of most people: “marriage, money, and the tangles of human ties.” His sharp eyes, used to scanning for customers, make people believe he has an unusual ability to tell people’s fortunes.

“An Astrologer’s Day” opens as its title character arrives at his workplace, at midday, and as usual spreads his charts and other fortune-telling props before him, though no one comes seeking his aid for many hours. Later, with nightfall approaching, he begins preparing to go home when, all of a sudden, he beholds a man standing in front of him. In the exchange of talk that ensues, the astrologer carefully tries to spread the net of his craft around the client, and the client, Guru Nayak, responds with a challenge: Would the astrologer tell him whether he, Guru Nayak, will be successful in a search he is carrying out, returning double the fee he has paid if the prediction cannot be made? The astrologer alternately accepts, declines, and feigns indifference, all the more to whet Nayak’s appetite and make him press his offer. The astrologer then catches a glimpse of Nayak’s face (previously shrouded in darkness) in the light of the match Nayak has struck under his cheroot, and, though at first chilled by the sight, decides to play out Nayak’s game: The astrologer tells him that he was once left for dead by another man, who had attacked him with a knife; Nayak, astonished, bares his chest to show the scar and wants to know if his assailant is alive. The astrologer, addressing him by name (to his further surprise), adds that his assailant is now dead and that he, Guru Nayak, should go back to his village and live out his life peacefully. To placate the still angry Nayak, who demands to know if the assailant met the kind of death he deserved, the astrologer replies that he was crushed under a lorry (truck). Nayak pays him the fee and hurriedly departs. The astrologer returns home late to his anxious wife and gives her the money he earned that day, adding that it all came from one client. The wife is happy but notices a slightly changed expression on her husband’s face; she asks him if there is something wrong. “Nothing,” he says but after dinner tells her that he is relieved that the man he thought he killed in a drunken brawl many years earlier is, in fact, alive. He says that it is late and goes to sleep on a pyol (mat).

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