My first safari was in the morning hours. We were allocated Zone 2 of the Ranthambore National Park. We were 4 in a jeep. I was lost in beauty of the national park while my friend was focused on seeing the Tiger. He had just enquired about ‘Machli’ from the guide when I first heard her name. We drive to the spot near a water hole where she was seen yesterday evening. She was not there. The pride in tone of the guide while talking about ‘Machli’ was evident.
I had to wait for some 10 more safaries in a span of 12 months to before I got to have a glimpse of her. She had crossed her primes and was 16 years old. She no longer ruled the prime territory inside the park and was being supported for food by the park authotirities.
We were returning from the evening safari when we suddenly get to see her seated under a tree. The sun was setting and the golden rays were falling on her head whenever she raised it to look around. She was half asleep and un-disturbed by the hustle-bustle of tourist jeeps around her. After clicking her pics satisfactorily I was able to help an elderly couple from Singapore to see her as well. They were earlier telling us that this may be their last trip to India. Finally, they get to see the Greatest of Tigers in the world.
She looked thinner but not weak which was evident when she exhaled air making a roar and stood up to walk away further to rest under another tree.
Today, at age of 19 years she breathed her last. She has been a symbol of tiger conservation in India and will continue to be. Stories of her beauty, fertility, motherhood, bravery and hunting skills will continue to inspire we humans for ages.
I believe she will be re-born as a human and work to conserve tigers and protect jungles. We need Machli here in this world.
May God rest her soul in peace.