Riddle me this
Winners of Mumbai qualifiers of Rubik's Cube World Cup talk about what makes them stick to the hobby ahead of the national finals in Chennai
We all have memories of trying to crack the Rubik’s Cube. And most of us also remember it as something we gave up on, eventually. But not these three Mumbaikars, who have been solving this adage-old riddle as a competitive hobby. Such that they won the
Mumbai qualifiers of the Red Bull Rubik’s Cube World Cup that will be held in Moscow later this year. As Shantanu Awale and Riddhi Shukla prepare for the national finals in Chennai, they tell us what got them addicted to the mind-boggling puzzle and how it helps them cope with what life throws at them.
Alaik Bhatia (left) and Shantanu Awale (right) battle it out last week
Chembur resident Awale, who won in the re-scramble and fastest hand-mixed categories, was introduced to cubing six years ago when a friend in school brought it to class. “I was amazed when my friend solved it. I bought one and took tips from him. I spent two weeks trying to figure it out on my own and got through the first two layers, but had to consult YouTube videos for the last stage,” the 20-year-old graduate in instrumentation engineering tells us. He wasn’t alone, though. Many of his classmates were intrigued and tried it out, but lost interest within a year. “They wanted to just solve it. I, however, dived deeper,” he adds.
Riddhi Shukla uses the Fridrich method that works on a layer-by-layer system, first solving a cross on the bottom, then the first two layers, before moving on to the top layer
Riddhi Shukla, who won in the speed-cubing category, started cubing when she was in engineering college at the age of 21 but she only began competing in 2015. Soon, she was addicted to it. “Just like mobiles and the Internet keep you addicted, cubing is also extremely addictive. If you solve it in x minutes, you want to just keep getting quicker. The one thing is that it’s tech-free and healthier; also you are competing with yourself most of the time,” the Borivali resident, who’s a software engineer, explains. Besides, the close-knit cubing community in the city also keeps her motivated, while helping enthusiasts learn new tricks of the trade.
And like in any other sport, Awale, who specialises in the 3x3 one hand category, where you solve the cube using one hand, says that practice is key. “Initially, you get nervous at competitions, but the more you practise, the calmer you are and the better the chances of improving your timing. I used to practice one to two hours every day,” he says. For Shukla, it’s more about being mindful of your mental state. “I use the four-step Fridrich Method, created by Jessica Fridrich from Hungary. But more importantly, you need to get rid of the mental block that you can’t solve it, while also being patient and determined. At the end of the day, 90 per cent of it depends on your state of mind, no matter what method you use,” she adds.
So it’s natural that this mental exercise should also affect mental agility. Besides helping in pattern recognition in daily life, Awale says that the game also helps him think quickly, especially in a high-pressure situation, and make a decision. “And as there are so many choices, it also helps in decision-making. I feel mine are more rational now, and I am also more focused and calm during tense situations. Besides, this hobby has also helped me go from being an introvert to not,” confesses Awale. Shukla echoes that her focus has improved, but the drastic change has been that she has become a much more patient person. “The way I break down any problem in life has changed — it’s more analytical now,” she adds.
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