by Rana Asfour
‘Tale Spin’ is a compilation of a hundred columns, from a trove of over a 1000, penned by writer and journalist Nickunj Malik during her 20-year career. Originally from India, Nickunj Malik, is presently a weekly columnist for the Jordan Times Newspaper in Amman where she now lives.
‘Tale Spin’ resonated with me on so many levels that I was unsure of which part I was going to write about. As a writer, I have found the book to contain lovely pieces of work. As a Jordanian who lives abroad, it was great to read the impressions about my home country as experienced, recorded and seen through the eyes of a non-Jordanian, and then to read the humorous pieces regarding the eccentricities of my people; The ‘Darling Ladies’ and ‘Telephone Manners’ had me in fits of laughter and ‘Moustache Tales’ is spot on and it seems, God help us all, that every family of every culture suffers the dreaded halitosis-hugging relative.
What clearly comes through in these columns is that Malik likes Jordanians and through her years of prose, one word at a time, she has built a solid bridge with which to communicate with a culture hugely different from the one she is used to. The result, judging by Malik’s popular column in Jordan, is that her efforts have paid off and Jordanians have returned the calling. They love her.
‘Tale Spin’ is an entertaining read from start to finish. The columns are witty, charming, and are a reflection of the kind of writer who is passionate about engaging with her surroundings and curious enough to want to get to know unfamiliar ones too. A woman who seems to attract stories like metal shavings to a magnet, it is of the greatest advantage that she should be gifted with the art of ‘tale spin’, for her stories render the normal into something quite special, and mundane activities such as grocery shopping acquire pizzazz and glamour.
'On first reading these pages you may think, gentle reader, that our writer has distinct and firm views and I agree that at times the paragraphs reads very much like it; but as you progress through the pages you encounter a mind coming to terms with phenomena and wondering about them. This is a gift and an endearing one' - Farrukh Dhondy in the Foreword of 'Tale Spin'
With an opinion on nearly everything from ‘Battle of the Bulge’ to marital disputes (‘There is nothing static about a marital status,’ she argues ‘other than the wedding band’), and from how to get your ‘Brows Right’ to lamenting the disappearance of photographers replaced by cell-phone cameras, she has a string of words on the go for just about every thing or every one who finds themselves engulfed in her world. Some of her writings, one can even argue, give the impression of a very confident, no-nonsense barred woman who if and when she does take a bull by its horns, sympathy will gravitate towards the poor animal.
And yet, with a name meaning ‘Abode of love’, Nickunj Malik’s writings are a true nod to her namesake whereby an abundant stream of love runs through; Love for her craft, for family, and for humankind; in short a celebrator of life. And that is precisely where her columns have succeeded in gaining the writer a huge following. Poignant pieces on family members such as her father, husband and daughter are touching, sentimental, and highly personal. Early in the book, Malik introduces her late mother with such sentiment, and pure raw emotion that unmask, if briefly, the real woman behind the satirical words and humorous puns. Indeed, a very likeable, warm woman!
Nickunj Malik’s book is a personal account of her life, and her observations on what she sees, what she does, and who she meets in her everyday life. It is also full of reminiscences and memories. Through it all, she remains ever the journalist with a sharp eye for detail and a professional attitude for reporting a good story and therefore nothing escapes her. The book is interspersed with beautiful polished cartoon sketches drawn by Jordanian cartoonist Osama Hajjaj. The text along with these cartoons are windows into the lives of ordinary people from India, to Abu Dhabi, to Amman, with unique, memorable instances of encounter with world figures as Nelson Mandela and the Pope. As clichéd as this may seem, but there really is ‘something for everyone’ in this little book.
Reading Nickunj Malik’s book brought to my mind Erma Bombeck, an American humorist who achieved great popularity for her newspaper column that described suburban home life from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s who once said: ‘When your mother asks, 'Do you want a piece of advice?' it is a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no. You're going to get it anyway’. Nickunj Malik: I rest my case ;)