Ambassadors of the Rubik’s Cube

Bindu Priyanka and Anand. Photo: Special Arrangement  

When R Chandrika was gifted a 3x3x3 Rubik’s Cube by an aunt from United States, she could have had no inkling of how the gadget would come to rule her life. Chandrika was just a nine-year-old child at that time. She did not give as much mind to solving the three-dimensional puzzle as she did to understanding the mechanism behind it.

“My dad is a mechanic and I always loved to dirty my hands, and so I took a screwdriver and disassembled the pieces to figure out its functioning but I was not successful,” says Chandrika.

Little did Chandrika realise that she would make a profession out of the teaching puzzles to others. Chandrika along with her two siblings — R Bindu Priyanka and R Anand — run the Tamil Nadu Cube Association, a registered body that trains the young and the old to take up competitive cubing and also conducts cubing events.

“I was finding it difficult to concentrate on studies and my mother pushed me to take up sports, and that is when I slowly started discovering the puzzle,” says Chandrika, in her early 30s now.

Her maternal grandfather tried teaching her all about three-dimensional puzzles but she could not crack it. Later, she learnt to solve it on her own. “We did not have a phone or a computer at home to learn about the formula or techniques, and so I started by solving one colour at a time and jotting the steps in a book so that I would not forget it,” says Chandrika.

It took her almost one-and-a-half years to solve a basic Rubik’s Cube completely. Chandrika has since been collecting and solving different kinds of cubes, but being a costly hobby, her parents began to feel the pinch.

“My mom, Bhuvana, started selling saris and working in a canteen to buy us cubes,” says Chandrika, adding “My siblings got hooked on cubing and the persistent clicks of cubes being arranged and rearranged became an undying soundtrack in our home.”

Bhuvana would send money to her sister in the United States to make sure the children got a hang of the Rubik’s Cube in a variety of shapes and sizes.

By 2013, Chandrika learnt to solve a variety of cubes in a matter of seconds and started teaching her neighbours under the name of Dharshan Academy. However, her first competitive event was a damp squib. “I did well for a beginner but did not match the speed of other participants as I had no one to guide me. That is the reason I have taken up coaching,” says Chandrika, who is engaged with three city schools as a Rubik’s Cube teacher.

The journey has not been easy for the trio. In 2018, the siblings fought hard to rechristen their centre as Tamil Nadu Cube Association. “We wanted to break myths surrounding cubing and take players to international level but it was a challenge as awareness about cubing was low,” says Chandrika.

Chandrika of Tamil Nadu Cube Association. Photo: Special Arrangement 

Chandrika of Tamil Nadu Cube Association. Photo: Special Arrangement   

Bindu, who takes charge of the marketing, says that persuading school managements to promote cubing was a challenge.

“How will you train our students using a toy?” was the remark we received. “Today, we have thousands of students and adults enrolled with us, many are competing at the international level,” says Bindu.

For the recent Rubik Cube World Championship held in 2019, their students came fourth and seventh. “We still have a long way to go,” says Bindu.

Since last year they started to train the enthusiasts online. Chandrika points out that their big moment arrived when one of her students Shaktivel, a four-year-old, created a world record completing the cube blindfolded in 28 seconds.

What is the difference the trio brings to the hobby? Thousands of formulae are available on the internet but not all of them work for everyone. “A left-hander might have difficulty in making turns. A cube that requires 20 moves can be solved in 18 moves with a different formula, so we customise as per a student’s age and ability,” says Chandrika.

Blindfolded Rubik’s Cube is something she takes pride in. “Instead of learning it through an algorithm, I introduced it through stories,” she says. Chandrika is next working on introducing Rubik’s Cube to teach mathematics.

Social initiatives

The trio has been teaching the art for free to students who cannot afford a nominal fee. For example, students of Mahanadhi Savithri School, a government school at Machlipatnam, have benefited from their classes. For those who cannot afford to buy Rubik’s Cube, they give it on rent. “We have a few visually challenged students learning from us and we do not charge them any fee,” says Chandrika, who shuttles between Chennai and Madurai. For senior citizens living in old age homes, they use cubes as a memory booster.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 12:46:56 AM |

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