Published: 12th February 2020
Puzzle your way through stress: This Chennai start-up is changing the way grown-ups spend their free time
Chennai-based Untangle founder C Senthilnathan tells us how solving puzzles can be a stress reliever and work as a gym for your brain. Here's how you can also 'untangle' after a tiring day!
On a sultry Saturday afternoon, we visited this brand new space that's come up in the quaint neighbourhood of Teynampet. Imagine this — a place with hundreds of jigsaw puzzles where you can pick up any of them without having to swipe your card, settle in for an hour or so to solve some of it and then, head back home just to return another day to continue it. Does this suddenly motivate you to awaken the puzzler in you? Then you should definitely head to Untangle - House of Puzzles that is hoping to change the way grown-ups spend their free time. Untangle was officially launched on February 1, 2020, and boy! they sure had an extremely busy first day.
So the first thing you notice when you enter is a custom-built Giant Sudoku Table on your right. It'll surely tempt you to walk around the table while you place one piece at a time, leading to a simultaneous brain and body workout. The place definitely has a calming and homely vibe to it. And that's exactly how the founders, C Senthilnathan and Subhatra Priyadarshini want you to feel. "For me, when I am solving a puzzle, I don't think of anything else. The mind is there, I don't even know where my phone is. I don't think about the to-dos for that day, I am just thinking about the next piece. And once you finish a puzzle, there's this joy and feeling of contentment that you experience, that you have accomplished something. It's definitely a mood lifter. The key is to do something that is challenging yet fun, to increase focus and thus, leading to satisfaction. This was the whole idea behind setting up Untangle and providing a space for grown-ups to spend quality time and relax," says Senthil, who quit his corporate job to set this up.
Senthil, who had been working with CitiBank for the past 12 years, wanted to do something different. One of his favourite things to do as a child was solve a puzzle as it served as a great de-stresser. "Then I found out that a lot of people also use it as a stress-buster when they're at home, but they want to do more. Today, there is a need for spaces that allow them to do just that. Secondly, my child is four years old and if you have a child, you realise that when you take them out, they have a lot of things to keep them engaged but the adults have nothing. We end up just sitting there, looking at our phones and waiting for the time to be up. So I wondered, why don't we just combine the two age groups and build something for adults, working professionals, college kids, teens and younger children altogether? They could spend their time qualitatively instead of going to theatres or malls all the time. Then, I began researching and found that there are thousands of different puzzles that we can offer, most of which people don't even know about," explains the founder.
Some of the more 'difficult' puzzles at Untangle
Are you wondering whether Untangle is only for jigsaw puzzles and Sudoku? The answer is a simple NO. They have a lot of sit-and-solve puzzles that the founders have collected from around the world. Just like ordering food off a restaurant menu, you can order a bunch of puzzles off their Puzzles Menu. These puzzles are sent to your table and you can start solving them. Once you're done with them, you can order another set from the menu. Each of the puzzles come with instruction cards — colour coded based on the puzzle and category, and star-coded based on the difficulty level. 40 to 50 per cent of their collection is jigsaw puzzles. "If you try to do a 1,000-piece puzzle at home, you might not have the patience to complete it and it'll end up being pushed aside. But when people come here, they can spend time to solve it and there's no necessity for them to finish it in a day. We have puzzles starting from 12 pieces for three-year-olds to 3,000-6,000 pieces for adults. And it is spread over six categories, namely animals, nature, art, movies, patterns and more," adds Senthil. And let's not forget the board games based on intelligent puzzle-solving skills, detective games/strategies to play against a worthy opponent.
Senthil says that none of the games is based on luck and that the user is only using their brain and smarts to play these games. "This is like a gym for the brain; as you put aside time for fitness or other activities, this is for you to de-stress but at the same time do something productive. If you keep doing this, there will be a day when you think to yourself 'how do I crack this?' before actually starting. You will be able to come up with various methods. I believe, when you are able to break down a larger problem into a smaller one, your brain starts to deal with real-life problems the same way. You can compartmentalise easily, focus on one thing at a time and thus, sharpen your brain," he says.
It is a puzzle lover's paradise
Untangle will soon see more centres cropping up across the city. "This is our first space and it acts as an experiment. Let's see how people respond. Our next step would be to expand to other locations in Chennai first and learn from these experiences so that we can spread this all over the country," concludes Senthil.