Baithak Khana

DSC_0254.JPGI’m sure that by now you have figured out our love for the traditional, with our quirk to it. This is visible in our spare bedroom, half of which is a slightly raised platform with a mattress and bolsters, defined by two wooden petis (built in chests for storage) on either side.

The other side has the TV unit which is basically the television  set up on a wooden ledge with drawers. The backdrop is the same gray paneling of exposed cement sheets which we have used in the living room, which seems to work very well with the earthy brown of the wooden furniture all around. This room is perfect to just hang out or laze around, watch some TV, or just read a book. There are times when our friends have come over and we have spent the entire day guarding spots, some lying on the bed, some on the bean bag pulled in from the bedroom and some curled up on the wooden peti like a cat, while we debated on the best ways to spend a Saturday afternoon. This is indeed our version of the quintessential baithak khana, where our grandfathers used to have heated discussions over cups of chai or a hukka and some paan.

authentic tribal arrows and some painted dry gourd picked up from the tribal fair called “adhirangam” held at Daman for the last couple of years.

Initially, we didn’t have a clue about how to accessorize this room. The simple brown and grey of the room was relieved slightly by the olive green chic blinds from our earlier house converted into the paneling behind the low bed and the deep maroon jute finish curtains behind the bamboo chic blinds. Apart from that, a Kashmiri yak wool rug gifted by a dear aunt for our wedding, adorns the wall behind the baithak. Slowly, A’s collection of weapons have started taking over the TV ledge, bows and arrows from a tribal fair, a small collection of knives and a wooden samurai sword picked up while visiting Pratapgarh.

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the wooden dhol from Goa flea market, artificial dahlia’s from Crawford market, some bamboo explorations from my NID days and a bamboo bow with bastar art.

There’s also a wooden dhol that I had picked up for him while visiting the flea market in Goa with friends, to celebrate his love for music and a couple of artificial dahlias picked up from our first accessorizing project. A bastar crafted whistling bamboo adorns the opposite corner standing tall on the peti with a bowl of white roses from a craft shop in Bandra. An Andhra leather craft lamp adorns the other peti and its bright glow magically transforms the room to some distant reality, while a dokra art boat (a gift from my mama and mimi visiting us for the first time) is being rowed by a boatsman against the bright green feng-shui bamboo blooming in my favorite black coffee mug. A ceramic glazed coconut shell bowl with a bamboo stick musical instrument from Cambodia, a boat shaped water hyacinth basket which is a peace offering from A and a ornamented quill in a small antiquity bottle make up the rest of the setting against the bamboo chic blind backdrop.

 

 

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a small antiquity blue bottle with  a ornate quill from Willam Penn  stands alongside a wooden damroo from Trambakeshwar and a dokra boat with boatsman from Kolkata.
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pebbles from the ladakh trip as a keepsake of their prayer stones and small ceramic pots from our road trip to mahabaleshwar

So yes! This baithak of ours has now become our favorite afternoon place, where we play cards and read newspaper while sipping on our cold coffees and listening to our favorite music.

Coffee in the Hall

DSC_0031.jpgWe love to talk, a lot! With friends, family, maids, gardener, cook, and when no one is around, with each other. We argue, discuss, analyze about anything and everything, and we did just that to freeze the front room layout. We had half the furniture ready, and had eaten into the hall to extend the kitchen and build a cupboard opening into the foyer. The hall had to accommodate the sitting and the dining, and our lavish ideas of space wasn’t enough, and so we argued this way and that. Conventional sitting arrangements, with a television set as the focus, didn’t seem to work out, and each placement seemed very rigid. There’s a small balcony at the end of the sitting space, where we wanted to keep a few plants (kind of a miniature version of what my Ma has in her balcony), and we wanted this to be our focus; and then one day, when we had both lost our cool fighting over the advantages of the different layouts, we happened upon a U formation, looking out into this balcony, and welcoming everyone to talk to each other over a cup of coffee!DSC_0106.jpg

The sitting comprises of a thirty year old sofa set, bought from Indore by A’s grandfather for their family house for a price of five hundred rupees. It is a set of three (a two seater and two single seats) made of solid teak wood framework with woven seats and back. The weave had long frayed, and what was left of this set was kept in the store room for some years now, forgotten since the new stylish sofa came in. A had to travel with it in the truck, with the rest of the wood scavenged from his house, as the transporters were scared they would be charged for wood trafficking!IMG-20161229-WA0016
Well, now the sofa has been refurbished with soft seats covered with grey fabric, adding a contemporary minimalist look to the earthy tone of our other belongings, a splash of color brought in by my mom’s old red and black silk college time sari turned into throw pillow covers.

DSC_0097.jpgThe low heighted center piece adds to the theme and is made of sturdy teak joists lined together on a wooden frame. This rest on a four by five square feet carpet, which changes according to our finds from printed kalamkari one to jute handloom woven piece. There are two old teak chairs, simple and elegant, built in A’s village about seventy five years back and the details are worth noticing.

DSC_0092a.jpgDSC_0092.jpgA framed Jaipur  patchwork table runner adorns the main wall, and adds color to the room. There’s a square water hyacinth basket converted into a LED lamp, with a small wooden dibbi (container) acting as the holder, hanging in the middle of the room, strategically placed over one of the side tables, with a wooden candlestand right beneath.
DSC_0010IMG_20170409_140835.jpg The balcony door has cane curtains hiding the sliding doors. A recycled cane curtain lamp stands by the corner stand designated for the telephone, with a bunch of yellow and white flowers in a painted earthen vase to complement the look. There are four Sarangpur wood work corner stands, sourced from a crafts mela in town, so that everyone has a handy place to keep their mugs and bitings. These also gives us more space to play with accessories, all arranged to tell a story, waiting to be picked up and looked at.

The center table has a hundred and twenty years old brass handi (pot) that has A’s great grandfathers initials etched upon it, a purple and black glazed coconut bowl from Cambodia that holds small pine cones and some seeds that I foraged from the woods of a resort in Tadoba, a keepsake of the tiger safari experience, an Absolute vodka bottle with flowers made from the remains of the sari used to make the cushion covers and some dry grass that I plucked on a trek to gorakhgad, and last, but not the least, a scrap metal model of a royal Enfield bike gifted to us not only because of our love of recycling, but also because we love our baby, a very dependable, highly erratic model of standard 350cc bullet.

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DSC_0227 (2)Our small balcony is where A dreams of having his very own Jumanjee jungle that has taken over the brick and mortar walls, and money plant varieties and bougainvillea creepers are doing their best to reach the ceiling. Ferns spilling out of their earthen pots fill up the balcony with fresh dark green. Small ceramic animals and sea shell and pebbles from the local beach adorn the smaller pots, mugs and bowls kept on an old folding table, another of A’s heritage loot. An occasional deep red hibiscus blooms out every second day. A’s favorite is the dwarf chafa, and our oldest is the adenium, nurtured and cared for by my mother initially, and then handed down to us to build our confidence in our ability to take care  of a living entity, which requires our dedication and patience.

 

Now that the bougainvillea is in bloom, and so are the adenium and the chafa, we often sit and admire our little garden, noticing every little leave and every new bud. A reads his morning newspaper here, and nothing is more welcoming than the serene look of the brown chairs lit by warm yellow light when we come back from work!

 

Dinner is served

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The dining is in continuation with the sitting area, and it also has the Temple wall while looking into the kitchen on the other side.  This allows for us to cook and have fun, even when there are many people around. If you remember, I mentioned that we have friends who love to cook and eat; well the last time they were around, we did just that. Six of us sat around the table, buttering breads, and singing loudly, while four of us danced around the kitchen while the food was prepared!

The dining is a very good example of how we used A’s family legacy. This wood is also a legacy of A’s ancestral home; cupboards, cribs, windows, benches used for making sev (dry snacks), and everything wooden lying in the corner room was put into a truck and brought here.

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Every once in a while A talks of this joIMG-20150612-WA0003.jpgurney. What he remembers the most is the road from the truck’s windscreen, moving through the dark night, only what was lit up by the headlights visible and stars peeking through the leaves of trees on either sides. Of course, most of the road had a lot of traffic and was more like playing videogame on big screen!

The dining table is wooden with two wooden benches.The wall behind the dining has two wooden ledges  initially meant to hold all sorts of condiments necessary to a meal, which is now represented by a couple of anchaar bharnis (ceramic pickle jars) we picked up from the street side on our way back from a road trip.

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There is a miniature brass tea set, and a brass cooking range with cylinder, a wok and a pressure cooker, the first thing we picked up when we went to shop for accessories and hardware fixtures for the home.

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A miniature brass panther leaping towards an invisible prey (from Cambodia), and a fiber baby elephant waiting for its mother on the kitchen ledge(previously introduced in the kitchen blog named “let’s cook!”) ridiculously co-habitat the dining ledge.

A couple wine bottles from the “sand and shell” upcycled series specially designed for a previous project, an old pic of baby A and his family, a red wooden oriental design bell and a small white bird cage that I picked up from Bandra, linking road while on a prowl with friends adds a little vintage romance to the ledge._DSC0323.JPG
The ledge also hosts timeless classics like a brass and glass hour glass, that we often use now while playing dumb charades or pictionary, a round marble table time piece with rajesthani enamel and stone work adding royalty and a small dark wooden jar from Siem Reap’s local market.

 

The dining table has a runner, which is what my mum and my aunt now love gifting us,and sometimes it is the Jaipur patchwork, sometimes brocade and sometimes handloom runner that brings in the flavor of the month. A random visit to a bamboo workshop en route Mumbai provided us with the triangular hot plate holders, which double up as gateways and tunnels for our toy cars and stuffed animals to pass through.

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There is some kind of flower arrangement on the table on most days, and it brings in a lot of warmth and cheer, a tray with black earthen glasses holding chopsticks encased in bamboo sleeves, and colorful glass bottles from Crawford market while on a client visit make up the rest of our dining space.

More often than not, the dining table is used by us for playing board games. My brother comes to India once a year, and he has to bring something for Ma and me. So he brings these really pretty wooden handicrafts for Ma, and for me he brings award winning board games that he has had fun playing with his friends; now our place has become a board games hub for all our friends, and we often end up playing into the wee hours of night, sitting around the table, fighting over whose turn it is, cheating a little and at the end of the game confessing to it; all in all, a lot of high energy with loud bouts of laughter, some cookies and milkshake around the table!!

Let’s cook!

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Eating at home is a luxury, as all those who have stayed away from their families would agree to. Both of us come from families which love to eat, and every meal is a mini feast. In turn, we love to cook, and have friends who love to cook. My family shifted base to Hyderabad as I had just started with high school, and making new friends seemed scary. During our first visit to one of my father’s colleague’s place, S unhesitatingly called me into the kitchen to fix lemonade, and I knew we were destined to be friends forever. Since then, my definition of a kitchen changed; from a boring workplace, it became a place where we hang out.

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Thus, we have spacious platforms which we try to keep uncluttered so that I can sit and chat, while A makes the salad for dinner. Drawing inspiration from our favorite kitchen pictures, we have ledges full of fancy mugs bought impulsively from different parts of the country, small artifacts (again gifted for various reasons), cutlery and wooden ladles. The many appliance that we need (or one of our many well-wishers think we need) have been allocated places inside the cupboards; a charcoal barbecue oven (a house warming gift from friends) being the only exception, as it looks like a small yellow UFO, which adds a bright splash of color in the kitchen, which is mostly grey and black.

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There are some ceramic achaar bharnis or pickle jars, which A insisted on picking up while on a road trip, as it reminds him of the times he used to sit in his Grandma’s kitchen and eat the mouth watering jams, jellies and pickles. There are a couple of bamboo mugs, which we have never used and beautiful oriental inspired designer tea cups with lids which we use to keep the achaar! A conical Cambodian farmer’s hat picked up on our trip to Angkor Wat has also found its way into the kitchen!!

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The wooden ladles are a birthday gift from friends who know our love for fancy rustic elements and love for cooking while the jar holding it is a wedding gift to start us off into a new journey, and has finally found the place it deserves.

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There is a ceramic biker girl and biker boy kissing each other salt and pepper dispenser, given to us by my cheeky cousin who thinks it’s humorous that we both have individual two wheelers, and this apparently defines our love story.
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There is also an ornate elephant in muted colors made in fiber, a wedding gift which holds a rustic charm, and its counterpart, a baby elephant waiting by on the dining room ledge, a wedding gift from my grandparent’s neighbors in Kolkata.
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On a ledge on top of the fridge we have Ramkrishna Paramhansa and Shree Ma, a legacy from my mother when I first shifted into a hostel, overseeing our meal preparations. A basket of small stuffed animals have also made their way into our kitchen, all gifted one at a time for various reasons.

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On the fridge we have a lion hanging on all fours (which was a gift to Ma from my brother and that I pocketed when she wasn’t looking!) and a dangling “das Mädchen” as my father calls it (loosely translated as “the maiden” or the country maiden), which reminds me of one of my favorite childhood dresses, which my parents got from Germany while coming back! And the fridge also has magnets from the places we have visited, along with an auto, a bus and a taxi, finally some Indian magnets I feel happy to own!

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The other bright corner being near the kitchen window, where small buckets with money plant have been hung on the top of the sink (A has constant tussle with the daily help for keeping the soap and scrubber on the platform as well).

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We knew we had achieved our dream when, during the first house party, we often ended up just hanging around the kitchen while someone fixed the drinks. As Sh remarked, “This is the happiest place to hang around, munching something, and really breezy!”

Blessings from the Wall

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We belong to different faiths, but we both believe in the essence of a temple; the mild fragrance of incense sticks, the resonate clanging of the temple bell, the trance like quality of chanting shlok, the energetic evening aarti that gives you hope. The other thing that brings hope and faith in our little world is the people we have around us, maybe not physically, but definitely emotionally. Thus our reverence is not restricted to the temple, but spills over to the wall adorned with little gifts we received from our friends and family. _dsc0230

 

The wooden mandir itself is a blessing from A’s mother. It was handpicked by her years ago for her personal mandir. She had lit lamps in it to keep her family happy and healthy. She was an amazing woman, with love for her fellow beings evident in everything she did; her family was not restricted to the residents of her house, but spread out near and far.

Inside this mandir, we have the friendly god of well being and prosperity, Ganesha. This idol is a gift from my Ma, who, knowing our finicky taste, patiently waited for us to choose for ourselves. She quietly, but firmly, told us that this tiny idol is much needed in our stressful lives; that sometimes it is good to have a physical representation of someone to have faith in.

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So in our dark wooden temple sits a royal blue and white, rajasthani stonework Lord. There is also a white marble imprint of the feet (or pagliya as it is called) of Ramdev baba, key to A’s family faith that his father gave him when we installed this mandir. And there is a rosary of 108 wooden beads, given to us by A’s maternal grandma, who is now a Jain nun, or Mara sa, which _dsc0238was her blessing to us as a couple.  Apart from this, we have a set of miniature tablas in our mandir and a couple of miniature idols of Natraj and Lakshmi, handpicked by my father on his trip to Hoobly, which he had to get for us for they are so well crafted. This is the whole and sole of our temple; here we fold our hands, bow our heads and close our eyes two minutes a day, and go to work with renewed energy.

Below this temple is a wooden ledge, and over it sits the rest of our spiritual collectibles.

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A black and gold elegant sleeping gajanan, gifted by my parents. It reminds us not to forget about the important things in life, like sleeping and taking time out for ourselves.
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A colorful leather ganesha from Bolpur, which doubles as a coin box, bought from a handicraft mela. A buddhist om bowl, from Ma’s visit to Sanchi Stupa.
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A black and orange ganapati, a gift from our friends as we said goodbye to our house by the sea, a simple brass bell and a small conch shell bought from our trip to Trambakeshwar.
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A wooden dhoop batti holder, which fills up the entire house with fragrant smoke every day, a gift from A’s sister. A small convoy of brass elephants, another memory of our Trambakeshwar trip, makes an interesting composition on the ledge.

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There’s another ornate brass bell, with ganesha carved onto it, which hangs at the far end of the ledge, and marks the end of our temple area.

 

Thus, we have built ourselves a mandir, where not only do we acknowledge our fears and look for inner peace, but we also celebrate the different relationships that make our lives complete.

And they lived happily ever after…

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dsc_0077So finally, we have ended up in this house; our house, after
months of struggle (read: running for loans, pooling in resources, fighting over design details, finalizing agencies and meeting deadlines); and spending whole days standing on site, while A played around with the wooden pieces (of course, this playing around produced the furniture we love). It took a toll on our lives as well; we slacked at work, slept late and got up later, stressed over finances and project completion; in fact, we had to shift into the still incomplete flat as the lease for our rented place was over. But finally we are here, and we have the house to ourselves; putting in the final touches and loving the feel of it. It feels lived in and it feels like we belong here.

Truth be told, we never really planned to buy a house so early in life, it just happened to us. But that didn’t stop A from putting in all we had and much more. Being architects, just moving in was not an option; we had to make it ours. dsc_0023An elaborate dream list was drafted and we set to work. Like all Indian households, we needed lots of storage (and no, the top of the cupboard does not count!!) and the kitchen needed to be spacious and be equipped to cook up a storm whenever occasion required. We wanted conversation to flourish in the common area, hence relocated the television to the small bedroom, and converted it into a lounge. Since the master bedroom has an attached toilet, it has become the walk-in wardrobe for the entire household, with all the cupboards, and the other bedroom is the designated designer’s abode, where we happily spend entire weekends lazing around and reading books!

But what is interesting is that we have a story about every space and every element of the house. We have a habit of holding on to old things, and love the memories they store. Our training helps us to refurbish, redefine, and finally upscale them, and we have used this skill extensively to hold on to family relics which are hidden treasure box of stories. This is a story of all the little stories that we have weaved into our everyday life. So happy reading!!

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Carefully crafted…

254526_10150288162500931_7915622_nWe were born in the age of telephones, and though our grandparents and distant uncles still wrote letters to us, we haven’t ever had to learn the art of letter writing. We didn’t have to. Whatever we wanted to say was just a phone call away. And the easier it became to make a call, the further we went to penning our thoughts down. We became careless about what we said and took offense on what we heard. There was nothing to fall back upon. Memories became distorted, till we found a way to store every moment of our lives in our pockets. Intimate moments needed to be picture perfect, like fairy-tales, and so we started to weave our moments around the picture. We became lesser than the moments captured, and feelings became a tool we played with..

It’s been some time now I’ve been wondering, how words used to cherish our feelings in those carefully crafted letters. Letters that we cherished all the more because of the long wait, the anticipation, looking for the postman every morning. Letter from your mother telling you about the nest in the courtyard tree, or your grandfather reminiscing about football with his brothers in the long forgotten village. The nostalgia of finding a yellow worn out letter in your favorite book with times long gone, but with the hint of rose.  Of all the arts dying in this world, the loss of letter writing is the close of an era.

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The beloved flower in the covers of a book; A book of romance and of dreams coming true

DSC_0167We all love magic; the magic of romance and youth. The excitement and naivety and faith, that which makes the world rosy and life like a dream. The beloved flowers in the covers of a book, letters written in red ink, the secret meeting, the telltale smile, and surely, each time we press a flower in our favorite book, we dream of these romances. To be a part of the unspoken true love, of fighting against all odds, of the long walks in the monsoon and the fields of flowers, to be mesmerized in love and be besotted with each other. We want surprise gifts of jewelry and chocolates, stuffed toys and scarves, flowers on occasions and dates to celebrate.

But isn’t it blissful to be able to pour one’s heart out or sit in silence through the night, every night. To know that even though you argue over the silliest of things, you’ll walk through the rough patches of life holding hands. And to be right there armed with tubs of ice-cream, even when you are complaining of everything you have. There may not be surprise gifts and date nights, and there will be many caustic comments, but there will also be secrets you share and the dream of a future, and the promise to build it together.

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Tomorrow: a wonderful place to be

DSC_0364It’s next time once again, and I still don’t have anything interesting to say. My plans are still in my head. Tomorrow is this wonderful place that I never reach. I am drowned in a lifelong of todays. Somewhere, deep down inside of me, a voice tells me, it is good to be at least dreaming of this wonderful tomorrow, that it is what lends you hope and the strength to wake up smiling every morning; but who am I kidding? That voice is just my way of procrastinating without feeling guilty.  Then the other voice chimes up. The depressing one, which reminds you that your wonderful tomorrow is a hoax, because you haven’t really done anything to deserve it, and are not focused enough. This voice at least eventually leads to something constructive. Because, then you list down all the steps you have taken to bring you closer to at least one of your dreams. It may be as small as cleaning your cupboard or pruning your small collection of plants. I think this is the reason some people always start their serious work sessions by cleaning up regime. If only I could stick to one single regime.

For me, one session might start with a cleaning up regime, which I will abandon halfway because I have had an idea, and that needs to be executed immediately. Then the next time, I would just keep sitting in a mess because I have no time to think of anything else. If I make out any pattern of my working style, it is last minute panic. That just sets it off. I envy the people who can put out good work effortlessly. You know the kinds who get up in the morning, know exactly what needs to be done around the house, read the newspaper and take a shower. They get dressed and head for work. They work till the evening. Head out, meet up and socialize, come back home, and all the while produce great work. I’ll tell you the secret. They don’t give up when they are bored or low. They go on. And so do I. I will start

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enjoying the walk to that wonderful place

finishing my mini projects. As soon as I clean up my cupboard and do the laundry.

Eternity!!

DSC_0702Shall I write of the moon and the stars, or about the birds playing hide and seek amongst the leaves? Or should I write about how the plant they had given up for dead has new leaves budding again? Each moment in itself seems like an eternity, with thousands of parallel stories vying with each other to be heard, while a few small ones remain content to lay hidden, till someone cares enough to hear it out, like the tiny green potted plant!

The plant was a peace offering, from an anxious husband to an irate wife, and had brought a smile that lit her face up, and the warmth spread to his heart. Now they bickered over how much manure was to be given, and whether it got any water that day or not! The plant blossomed under their inexpertise, and brought them together in a whole new way. When they moved, they decide to leave it as a legacy to the place they had called home for what seemed like an eternity!

 

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