Tiger Tales from Ranthambore || T-16 or "Lady of the Lake" AKA "Machali"

Tiger Tales from Ranthambore || T-16 or "Lady of the Lake" AKA "Machali"

A Lifetime Achievement Award! A Facebook Fan Page! And no! We aren't talking about a veteran Bollywood actor. It is none other than the "Lady of the Lake", or T-16, the undisputed matriarch, the proud grandmother of most of the cubs now learning to take their first steps in the rugged forests of Ranthambore. Also known as "Machali", a name she has inherited from her mother, she is mostly sighted cooling herself in one of the many water bodies in her territory. And even though her once glossy coat is now losing its shine and she has lost most of her canines, few would guess that the graceful tigress has now been on the prowl for the past 18 years, much longer than the average lifespan of Royal Bengal Tigers.

Machali lounging in one of the many waterbodies
Photo courtesy Komal Desai

The tigress has led an eventful life and one wonders what memories haunt her as she lazes around in water enjoying her semi-retirement, "semi-" because a tiger in a jungle can never really afford to take it easy, especially when the woods nearby are teeming with several young males of the same species.

Is she reliving one of her many fights with the giant crocodiles, in which she managed to kill no less than 8 of them? Or is she nostalgic about her several romantic partners, none of whom are alive now as she has outlived them by several years? Or is she reveling in the phantom antics of her several cubs, one of whom, T-17, turned against her and drove her out of her territory - a defeat that would have broken her heart, but nevertheless made her proud of how well she has brought up her cubs? What is it she thinks of night and day?