Growing up, a typical family activity was working on a large jigsaw puzzle, perhaps 1000 or 1500 pieces.
One afternoon, we were working on a group of brown and black horses, grazing on grass near a beautiful lake spot. I noticed that my older sister, Priya, was holding a piece. She kept turning it around, looking back and forth between the picture on the box and our semi complete puzzle. She seemed quite stuck. It was so obvious to me. I couldn’t understand how she couldn’t see the correct spot – was she trying to annoy me or seem dumb on purpose?
I tried waiting, but as a five-year-old, even two minutes felt like forever. It seemed that she was never going to solve it, so I picked the piece right out of her hand and fit it directly into the correct spot.
My whole family stared, looked shocked and asked how I had done that.
Generally, most children would struggle to complete a 200 piece without any help, let alone find the correct spot for a puzzle piece in a half completed 1500 piece puzzle. It was even more perplexing because Priya was the academically gifted one. If anyone should have been able to skilfully solve jigsaw puzzles, it should have been her – not me.
I shrugged my shoulders, gave them a blank look and continued with the rest of the puzzle.
Surely, everyone could see what I was seeing?
Perhaps it was a lucky guess or a fluke. But then it started happening all the time. This was no accident. It became clear that I had a mysterious talent. I was often banned from “helping” and told that I had to stick to own my section. Apparently, I ruined the fun. I didn’t mind though, having to wait for others was exceptionally frustrating. The ban would always be lifted when there was a piece that no one else could solve. They would give me the “difficult” pieces, and I would work my magic. I was like a superhero, coming in to save the day.
In fact, that’s one of the best analogies I can give you for what it’s like to have my skill. If you’ve ever watched a TV programme where the character has superhuman vision, we’re often shown the scene from their perspective. They look in the direction of their chosen area, zoom in like a camera lens and continue on their adventure.
To me, puzzles are that simple and effortless.
I look at the piece and the puzzle box, back and forth a few times – and somehow my brain just knows where to slot it in. The size of the overall puzzle is irrelevant, as is the picture.
Sometimes, my family and I tried to hypothesise why or how this happens. Yet, it’s a mystery to all of us. The best I have come up with is that somehow my brain has supreme colour and visual acuity combined with a well-developed spatial perception system. It doesn’t make sense, but some of the most amazing things in life never do.