As a kid, I owned just one jigsaw puzzle that was based on the nursery rhyme ‘Peter, Peter pumpkin eater’. The final image had a giant pumpkin from which a woman emerged and perhaps also had the pumpkin-eater Peter standing somewhere in the vicinity. I’ve solved this puzzle so many times in my childhood that over the years, the image on some of the pieces has peeled off from the surface.
Recently, I had a sudden urge to work with jigsaw puzzles once again. One can never go wrong with jigsaw puzzles. There are no surprises about the final result and there’s a special satisfaction arrived at from fitting all the pieces together. Increasingly, adult colouring books and jigsaw puzzles are being recommended for mental health by experts. I’m sure the feeling of reconnecting with one’s childhood has manifested in many of us in different forms at different times but especially now, during the pandemic, the mind tends to play interesting games. I particularly enjoyed the time spent in one’s own company, solving a good puzzle. I wanted to experience this once again. That’s when I stumbled upon Untagle, an exclusive puzzle house cafe in Chennai, first of its kind in the country, according to its owners.
C Senthilnathan, co-founder of Untangle, a Chennai-based puzzle house that was opened in February last year, talks about some of his earliest memories with a puzzle. He says he owned three to four puzzles, of which one was a Mickey Mouse puzzle, and that he worked on it with cousins over and over again as a child. By chance, his wife Subhatra Priyadarshini and co-founder of Untangle, too owned the same puzzle.
Their shared interest in puzzles coupled with their 3-year-old daughter’s ability to solve and learn from puzzles made them gravitate towards the idea of opening an exclusive cafe with puzzles. Located in Teynampet, Untangle is at present closed due to the lockdown. But they’ve got interesting social media engagement going on.
“We had a very good response when we opened but on the 42nd day, the first lockdown was imposed. We began looking at alternative ways for keeping people engaged,” Senthil shares. Senthil, who had worked in the banking sector for over 12 years until then, gave up his job to begin this venture. “My wife started a patisserie by the name Choc Of The Town and Untangle became its premises. The idea to have the cafe and the puzzle house running in the same space made sense,” Senthil adds.
Untangle, which has about 70% jigsaw puzzles and 30% boardgames, houses 800 jigsaw puzzles, 80 logic puzzles and 250 boardgames. Their biggest is a 24,000 piece jigsaw, the final form of which will take up 17 ft space. This they bought from the UK and is the most expensive puzzle at Untangle. There are also jigsaws with no images on them and jigsaws that are fitted based on shapes.
The owners of Untangle had planned for a grand marathon with a 6,000 piece jigsaw for Christmas last year but this had to be postponed because of the rising COVID-19 cases. At present they have a popular engagement programme on social media, where they post a puzzle a day. “These, we’ve noticed, have very good reach. Sometimes we get about 300 to 400 responses and we’ve also heard they are being shared on WhatsApp groups. In fact, between the first lockdown last year and the unlock earlier this year, many of our walk-ins admitted to having heard about Untangle from these online puzzles. We hope to continue it,” Senthil adds.
They’ve also got plans of hosting a weekend puzzle event, ticketed, that would work like a treasure hunt for later this May. They’re also mulling over newsletters with puzzles perhaps in June. “Since our physical space is at present closed, we’re thinking of ways to keep the crowd engagement going,” he says. You can follow them on Instagram and Twitter.