An Astrologer’s Day
by R. K. Narayan
Explantion and answers for the Prose 1 from section 1 of the Maharatra Board Standard XII English Yuvakbharati textbook
About R. K. Narayan
R. K. Narayan was a prolific story writer who based most of his stories on an imaginary south Indian town named, Malgudi. His ingenuity in creating plots of the village scene and the nature of the folks there is outstanding. Laced with subtle humor, the ordinary, all-too-human characters remain in the readers’ mind for ages as a source of innocent pleasure. Narayan’s writings have been translated to more than hundred languages and receive appreciation from readers across geography.
The astrologer described in this story is a typical village guy who has, through his cunningness, built an aura of wisdom and foretelling ability, although he possessed not an iota of these skills. His ability to read the minds of the clients, and tune his predictions earned him the un-deserved fame.
A wily man made his living by predicting the causes of the miseries of his un-suspecting clients who were reeling from the usual hardships of life. The man wore the garb of a wise astrologer who not only could identify the causes of the trouble his customers faced, but could also suggest panacea for them.
He seated himself under a tree where he spread the usual items people identify as astrological tools such as cowrie shells, obscure mystic charts, a bundle of palmyra writing and a note book. He smeared some ash on his forehead to give him the aura of an omniscient superman. A saffron-colored turban on his head magnified his persona.
The man started his business at noon, and continued late into the evening. The darkness was dispelled by a flare light and the light emanating from nearby shops. The place carried no municipal rental, and was freely accessible.
He had an uncanny ability to read his customers’ troubled minds. He gazed into their eyes, marked their body language and weighed the tone of their voices. After hearing out the woes of the customer, he ventured to make his pronouncement. To taste the waters, he made an ambiguous guess about the root of their trouble, and if that evoked an approving look from the client, he proceeded to make more audacious comments, till his client opened up his minds and surrendered to the benign but all-knowing astrologer.
The ‘astrologer’ was a fugitive who had left his ancestral village under unfortunate circumstances. His forefathers toiled on the land for their living. Having fled his village, this man had no means to feed himself. He chose to be fortune-teller to sustain himself.
The astrologer understood the squabbles, the envy, and the greed that bedevil rural families. He knew how some jealous women in most trouble-ridden families fomented discord and spoiled peace. In some cases, the astrologer ascribed the client’s trouble to such a woman. He could, with little effort, see through his clients’ minds, and starting with some vague, placatory remarks, offered panacea for their misfortune. He charged small fees, generally an anna or so. The place was crowded with vendors selling their wares. The din and bustle f the place was an advantage to the astrologer, who could spot potential customers from among the milling crowd. So good was the astrologer in his trickery that the clients, generally, couldn’t get a whiff of the deception to which they had willingly fallen prey to.
The astrologer had a dreadful past. When he was young, he along with a few friends got into a drunken brawl with another person. The astrologer, then an ordinary village youth used a knife to attack the rival. The latter was grievously wounded and dumped in a well as dead. The seriousness of his criminal act dawned upon him as the liquor’s effect wore off. He panicked and fled the village to settle down in the present place located at least two hundred miles away. He evaded arrest and settled down to start this profession with no training in it whatsoever. He flourished in his trade, got married and fathered a son.
On a fateful day, when the astrologer was winding up his work in late evening, he was approached by a burly angry-looking man who sat down for seeking some information about the man who had seriously injured him and dumped him for dead years ago. Seeing he face of his victim, fear ran down the spine of the nervous astrologer. Fortunately for him, the darkness of the place enabled him to evade an eye-to-eye contact. After some back-and-forth bargaining, the astrologer agreed to tell his ferocious looking customer about the fate of his tormentor. The astrologer knew his client’s name as Guru Nayak, and this convinced the customer about the authenticity of his version. The astrologer told that the tormentor was crushed to death under a truck some months ago. The client felt happy learning about the divine revenge. To deflect the angry man off his trail, the astrologer told Guru Nayak to rush back to his village to escape an imminent danger to his life. Guru Nayak agreed to the counsel and left, flinging a few coins at the astrologer as the fees.
The astrologer had escaped a brush with his vengeful victim, and was deeply relieved. He returned home late that night and narrated the incident to his bewildered wife. Both heaved a sigh of relief.
Brainstorming (Questions and answers)
A(1) i. Given below are some descriptions. Discuss them with your partner and find out one word for each of them. An example is given for.
(a) The scientific study of the universe and the objects in it, including stars,planets, nebulae and galaxies- Astronomy
(b) The study of the movements of the planets, Sun, Moon, and Stars in thebelief that these movements can have an influence on people’s lives. – Astrology
(c) A prediction of what will happen in the future. Futurology
(d) Scientific discipline that studies mental states and processes and behaviourin humans and other animals. Psychology
ii. In the story we are told that the Town Hall Park was a remarkable placein many ways for an astrologer to build his business. Discuss it in a groupand list the exceptional qualities of the place.
A surging crowd, Din and bustle, Easily accessible, High visibility, Rent-free, Naturally-lit
iii. The astrologer never opened his mouth till the other had spoken for atleast ten minutes. Discuss the reasons behind his act.
The astrologer never opened his mouth ……. [The astrologer wanted to assess the reason for the worries of his customer by listening in to the him keenly. When the customer poured out his woes and anxieties, the cunning astrologer could figure out a non-committal response to him. The astrologer broadly understood the ways people get into trouble in course of their lives, and causes behind them. A patient hearing of the customer’s monologue was, therefore, necessary for him to suggest a remedy.]
b. He knew the common causes behind people’s difficulties in life.
c. Allowing the clients to pour out their grief and their family background helped him to suggest a cause and its remedy.
d. Knowing the background f the customer helped him to avoid blunders in his advice.
A2 (1) i. The tactics used by the astrologer to earn his wages are:
a. Analysis of human troubles
b. Making generalized comments on the customer that were mostly vague
c. Suggesting the root cause of the trouble
d. Offering advice to do some rituals to nullify the influence of the trouble-makers
ii. The astrologer’s appearance helps to create an impression on his clients. Complete the following.
b. The ashes and vermilion smeared on his forehead
c. His piercing gaze coming out of his searching eyes
d. His dark drooping whiskers
iii. Read the following sentences and choose the correct one.
a. The astrologer says that if Nayak does not leave his village again, he would ….. face danger
b. According to the narrator the astrologer’s success in his profession isprimarily due to … his understanding of people
c. The story suggests that the astrologer’s comments and observations pleasepeople by…… flattering them and supporting their own views
d. Guru Nayak consults the astrologer because he wants .. to find an answer to a specific question
e. Guru Nayak looking for the man who tried to kill him …… to take revenge
f. The astrologer’s remarks makes Guru Nayak feel all of the followingexcept …… suspicious
g. The reasons for the astrologer’s wife to his news suggest that she ….. Was unaware of his past.
iv. Read the following sentences and find out True and False sentences. Correct the False sentences.
(a)The astrologer gave a correct prediction to the client about his past thathe was stabbed, thrown into a well and left for dead. Correct
(b)When the astrologer came to know that the man whom he killed is alivehe felt that he was relieved of his guilt. False. When the astrologer came to know that the man whom he killed is still alive, he panicked.
(c)The astrologer tried to back out of the deal and talked about the client’spast. Correct
(d)The astrologer rescued himself from Guru Nayak’s revenge. Correct
(e)The moral of the story is that we must be responsible about what wehave done and should not run away from our mistakes. Correct
v. The astrologer has changed his appearance and his persona when hearrived in the city. Give specific reasons.
The astrologer was keen to evade the long arm of law, and had to remain incognito. He also wanted to earn a living. So, he had to don the persona of an astrologer.
vi. ‘The darkness load that was inside the astrologer has disappeared’. Throughthis sentence, explain the significance of the title ‘An Astrologer’s Day’.
The fear of being detected and made to face the law always lurked in his mind. It haunted him relentlessly. After convincing his victim to remain confined to his village, he could preempt such a devastating consequence. His presence of mind and his wit enabled him to deflect the fear once and for all. So, it’s apt to call the story ‘An Astrologer’s Day’.
vii. The astrologer feels relieved that Guru is not dead as it relieves a greatburden from him. Critically justify the statement and explain it.
Discovering that Guru had not died due to the drunken knife attack assured the astrologer that if ever he was arrested, he wouldn’t face murder charges. He would only have to defend himself from charges of wounding his victim with a knife. That was a doable task. So, seeing Guru Nayak alive brought him some relief.
viii. The astrologer wins/gets the sympathy of criticism of the reader in theend. Express your opinion with the support of the main story.
The astrologer was drunk when he attacked Guru Nayak. The victim must have done something to trigger the brawl and the fisticuff that followed. The astrologer had to leave his home and face great hardship to earn a living. For him to face his vengeful victim and face a possible fatal attack was not justifiable. The price was too high to pay. So, he draws the sympathy of the readers for escaping a deadly encounter with Guru.
ix. If we have to eradicate the superstitions and other ill practices from oursociety, what steps would you like to suggest?
An aggressive campaign to promote scientific temper, and enactment of stricter laws to punish those spreading superstitions would go a long way in banishing this malaise from society.
x. In the story, astrologer has a great listening power. Listening helps indeveloping good relations with people. Express your opinion.
A patient and keen listener quickly builds a rapport with the aggrieved person. Impatience in hearing out the grievances makes the complainant resentful, and feel ignored. The result worsens the situation. So, a good listener is a good resolver of conflicts. The astrologer had this gift.
—–To be contd—–