As a series of short and hurried alarm calls rang through the air, the chaotically beautiful forests of Ranthambore suddenly fell silent- a Chital somewhere nearby had noticed someone, I hadn't.
A Gray langur perched on a tree above me, who was until now an enthusiastic participant of the early morning ruckus, immediately dropped his antics and joined the deer in raising the alarm, with short bursts of deep, raspy grunts.
And, as the nature around me hastily brought itself to order, there she stepped out from the dense shroud of trees…
Sharp and fearless gait, matched by the pin-drop silence of the surroundings spoke of the dominance she possessed over one of the largest areas in the forests of Ranthambore.
And, as she stepped out of the dry yellow foliage, a slight rustle of grass behind her, revealed the two new additions to the long-stretched lineage of Machali.
A young cub, skittish and wary of the swarm of tourists looming over her, was busy scurrying around and under her mother seeking security and confidence, while another-enthused and curious, pranced right in front of her mother, walking two steps ahead of her- leading the way.
The raw, belligerent Arrowhead (T-84) known for ousting her mother from the territory, wasn't the same one that had walked out in front of me- cause here was a calm and graceful tigress licking her cubs clean, a patient audience to their antics, exploring the new ways to the newly found motherhood herself.
Meanwhile, the four-month cub looked beyond me- her eyes showed determination to follow her mother on a long journey- one that may lead her to become one of the massive contenders to the coveted lake area of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (RTR), one that also happens to be the legacy owned by her great grandmother, Machali and currently Arrowhead. What more, she has an equally enthused sister following closely in the footsteps.
Eventually, as she got up, following her cubs into the distance, she walked up to a nearby Dhaak tree (Butea monosperma) and marked her territory- an act that implies importance now, more than ever! As her kids grow up the need to fortify her territory from other males grows increasingly important, at least until they are old enough to venture out on their own.
But for now, the forts and forests of Ranthambore stand a patient witness (pretty much like me and you), to this strong, sobering and gradually unfolding relationship.
(The story is a first-person account of witnessing the cubs of Arrowhead in Zone 3 of the Tiger Reserve in April 2019.)