Puzzle Mania November 01 2014
What is it about these perfect little coloured bits that has us in such a grip? May be because of all my childhood toys, the one that I loved the best was a little cardboard ‘States of India’ jigsaw where every state could be fitted into its slot. We have always been enthralled by Ravensburger puzzles ever since we did our first 500 piece puzzle way back in 1993. V had got one for the kids on one of his trips abroad, and given the size of the puzzle, it had remained unopened for several months. Until one rainy, floody day when Mumbai came to a standstill and we were cooped up indoors, we opened the puzzle. And we were hooked!
We have moved on from the 500 piece puzzles onto 2000 piece ones. And we have maintained the tradition of opening a puzzle only when it rains too heavily and we are stranded indoors. So this time in the first week of June, V was away in Mumbai and the skies threatened to open up, I got out my very favourite ‘School of Athens’ puzzle.
A painting so fascinating, you could look at it for hours. It is one of the most famous frescoes by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, depicting nearly every Greek philosopher. It was painted between 1509 and 1510 and adorns one of the walls in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. Little must Raphael have imagined that 500 years later, copies of his painting would be painstakingly rebuilt piece by piece by puzzle lovers the world across, including two in a remote farm in Chitrapur.
So how does this mania take over? First we sort out the edge pieces. The table which is normally cluttered with our laptops, books, manuals, notes, plates of drying mace and nutmegs and other odds and ends, miraculously gets cleared to make way for the pieces. The stage is set and the border starts taking shape. Every spare moment is spent poring over the pieces. Sorting them is essential, so plastic containers, baking tins, bowls find their way to the table to hold a shade of purple or green that you know has to belong to this or that corner of the puzzle.
Bit by bit the figures evolve, the rich tapestry on the walls comes alive, your eyes start noticing the ever so subtle differences in the shades of brown that make up the robe of Euclid and Plotinus or the blue streaks that highlight the robes of Aristotle and Diogenes.
The sculptures on the wall depicting Apollo, god of light, archery and music, holding a lyre and Athena, goddess of wisdom, take shape out of the million shades of cream and beige. The arch above the group of figures which is a classic Greek ‘meander’ a motif made with one continuous line gets done as we match each line for its thickness and colour.
And so on it goes until we are down to the last 50 pieces and then it is a race to the finish.
The whole puzzle is done and adorns our table for some days while we admire the painting and the precision with which the pieces fit into one another. and then it is time to take it apart and put it back into the box until the next rainy season, when hopefully we will have another masterpiece from Ravensburger.