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Striped Agility

Tiger burning bright.

Think Rajasthan!! Think summer. Think May. Think Afternoon and Think Ranthambhore National Park, once a princely game conserve located on the junction of sharp conical hills of Aravali and gently steep slopes of the Vindhyas sprawls over a varying and undulating landscape. A tenth century fort for the backdrop. Pure sands of Dhok (Anogeissus pendula) interspersed with grasslands at the plateaus, meadows in valleys and luxuriant foliage around the canals make the jungle. Lakes abounds with aquatic vegetation including duckweed, lilies and lotus.– studded across the forest.

The 46 degree with hot air blowing in a speeding vehicle would feel like 50 degree. The vehicle was passing junction of Vindhaya plateau and Aravali range – steep rocky hills, a 10th century Ranthambhore fort. Welcome to rugged park terrain with dry deciduous forest, open grassy meadow, dotted with several lakes and slithering river. The jungle was burning and visibility was excellent. This being the best time to spot the striped beauty. Finally law of attraction worked. It was siesta time for her- our beloved lady of lake. Black Stripes made the perfect contrast resulting in clear visibility even among the thick vegetation. It was siesta time for the agile cat. 50 people in a dozen odd vehicles watching. Actually she is used to 500000 visitors during a Ganesha festival in her vicinity. The cat seemed used to these types of intrusions. But never let the things to chances, the tiger would open her eyes, look up at times, and stretch her neck every few seconds to ensure that there is no threat to her from we homosepian. The cycle would repeat every few minutes.

Dominant among the three siblings from the time she was born and started hunting at the age of two and is on her kingdom since then.

Yes we were watching one of the most photographed tigress of the world and admired by heads of the states, president of fortune 500 companies and common men in the same breath. Distinction of featuring in almost all the popular documentaries on Ranthambhore of real life channel. Yes She is “Machali”

The evening trip saw the same tigress in the same place – majestically snoring – little disappointing such a majestic animal is so laid back. Quickly a thought passed age is catching up. She was in last years of her life, with canine tooth lost while crocodile hunting, pushed out by her own daughter.

Once upon a time, yes once upon a time  she was the pride occupant of the most scenic Ranthambhore at three lakes It is wonderful to watch the beast sleep, she would turn to her back and and take turn. She would turn

Next day she had killed a spotted deer an very easy prey for her as she has had enjoyed hunting on several occasions, among which were crocodiles ( she has successfully passed on this skill to one of her son )and in the process lost her strongest weapon two of her four canine – upper and lower of left cheek. She was guarding it, self sufficient even in last days of her life , she lived with dignity and continue to live.

Had the pleasure of mating with four different males gone through the labor pain four times and have delivered nine cubs in total and one of the earlier cub was ran over by passenger train in August 2003 in Darra sanctuary about 150 kms from Ranthambhore.    

 Written and Captured by Manish Patel