A Wayside Story Review by Hemant Abhishek, Asian Age, 2010

It’s a wayside story, either you get it or you don’t. A Wayside Story, debut novel of artist and poet, Rupanjali Baruah, is about the pursuit of light in a dark alley, about a ray of hope, a journey in search of something elusive — it could be the acorn for a squirrel, fraction of a second for a sprinter, a salmon’s last trip upstream, in short, the journey that could add meaning to the one life one has to live.

It is the story of Minnie who gives up everything, literally and allegorically in pursuit of her love, Siddhartha, and travels all the way to Dubai where he works, to be with him. Siddhartha is her only priority whereas she is just an option for him.
Minnie’s journey has a beacon at the end where lies the prize she yearns for and could spend even the last drop of her own blood to reach, knowing well that she wouldn’t be alive to relish the spoils thereafter. And all this despite knowing that like fragments of sand, Siddhartha too eludes her clasp the more she grapples. All along Minnie is trapped in a bubble of memories and feelings that only lead to an abyss.

But Siddhartha who she loves and pursues doesn’t reciprocate her feelings. He instead uses her for money, as he, a spoilt brat, is betrayed in love and after a failed suicide grows a heart of stone that despises everybody and seeks revenge for his heartbreak.
The story is narrated from Minnie’s perspective; the chapters are broken up in divides of “now” and “then”—the “now” explains the reality while the “then” gives wings to her imagination and bellows air into the dying furnace of her memories and with the air in her lungs and wings she gathers strength and takes another step towards her elusive goal.

A Wayside Story is lyrical, metaphorical, dangling between the “nows” and “thens”. Each “now” begins with a verse and culminates in another short lyric that marks the beginning of “then.” And within there are layers after layers of Sylvia Plath-esque emotions and feelings, but because there are very few incidents and anecdotes the novella at times becomes too heavy a read.
Rupanjali’s writing thrives on metaphors. Siddhartha resides in Dubai, the city that is like his character, concrete and heartless, while Minnie loves pastures back home in India and dreams to be surrounded by nature and greenery. Although Siddhartha is cold and Minnie is brash, she doesn’t put a halo over Minnie and horns on Siddhartha. The characters are moulded with realistic strokes — none all black, or all white, but with shades of grey. And as they proceed in their journey of love, new colours enter and exit their canvas of life.