The lights in the marketplace represent the illusion of enlightenment from which that the astrologer profits. It is the light in the astrologer’s eye that convinces his customers that he is possessed of a cosmic and prophetic intelligence. The shifting light and dancing shadows in the marketplace create a mystical, enchanting atmosphere that further lends to the false credibility of the astrologer. Tellingly, although most of the other vendors in the marketplace have various lights, gas lamps, or flares, the astrologer has none of his own. He simply profits off of the light put off by the other vendors. In the same way, the astrologer, fraudulent as he is, merely borrows on the preeminence of religion in that society and on the perception by others that he is a man of great wisdom to make his living. He notably starts at midday, when the crowd is thick and the light is full. As the day goes on and customers leave, so also do many of the marketplace lights begin to fade, reflecting the way in which his cosmic wisdom, so dependent as it is upon the perceptions of gullible customers, also fades with the crowds.
When Guru Nayak arrives, there is but one small shaft of light left, which he obscures with his formidable presence as he displays clear skepticism of the astrologer’s authenticity. As they speak, the last light is distinguished. However, when Guru Nayak strikes a match to light his cheroot, his face is briefly illuminated. For the first time in the story, there is a light originating from the astrologer’s place, a symbol of the new opportunity for the astrologer to confess to his crime and accept the just punishment for what he has done. But the match goes out quickly, as does any notion of the astrologer revealing himself. Any question of enlightenment or virtue is extinguished with it.
The Marketplace Lights Quotes in An Astrologer’s Day
Half the enchantment of the place was due to the fact that it did not have the benefit of municipal lighting. The place was lit up by shop lights. One or two had hissing gaslights, some had naked flares stuck on poles, some were lit up by old cycle lamps, and one or two, like the astrologer’s, managed without lights of their own. It was a bewildering crisscross of light rays and moving shadows.