Arthur returned home in April from Delhi, where he was pursuing his Masters’ in Journalism from the Delhi University. He had stayed at a quarantine facility and was sent safely home after 14 days. Unfortunately, a week later, Arthur, along with 7 members of his family, tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Arthur lost touch with most of his friends while he was away, and others stopped calling him too. Since his return, even his best friend, Joseph, has not been able to meet him.

Home feels different for other reasons as well. Thrissur doesn’t light up as usual. Sanitisers stack the shops that once overflowed with Onam decorations. Saddened by this, Joseph comes up with a plan to surprise Arthur in the most unconventional way.

On the day of Onam Sadya, Joseph sends Arthur a meeting link on Zoom. Arthur is touched. He feels overwhelmed to know that even though he was away for two years, he still has a home in his friend’s heart. He feels ashamed for all those times when he ignored Joseph’s texts and made excuses for not attending his video calls, being busy with university life. The two families enjoy their 24-dish feast of Sadya over video call, eating and laughing together, heartily.

Three days later, on the day of Pulikali, Arthur witnessed a day he had never imagined he would in Thrissur. Colourful tiger-mates dancing to drums replaced by empty roads, with just a few passing cars. He turned to YouTube to watch last year’s dance performances. Thud! Thud! Dham Dham! He looked out of his window to see where the sound was coming from. He could not stop laughing looking at the goofball outside his window. Joseph was standing there painted all over in a tiger costume – wearing a blue surgical mask and carrying paints for his friend.

The two boys roamed the city dancing and beating drums in celebration of Pulikali festival, entertaining and performing – all while wearing masks – for people who stood in their balconies appreciating. This year, Onam wasn’t the same. Mahabali wasn’t the same. Pookalam wasn’t the same. Pulikali wasn’t the same. And the friends weren’t the same either – they were brothers now, ‘masked tiger brothers’!

Note: This is a work of fictionAny resemblance to a person living or otherwise may be purely coincidental

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