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This is the story of Machli, reputedly the most famous tigress in the world. She lived in Ranathambore National Park in the state of Rajasthan in Northern India, and died earlier this year at the ripe old age of 19. It is said that tigers usually live only till the age of 14-15. But Machli was ‘kept alive’ well after she was able to hunt and find food for herself. According to a report in the Indian Express, “…Without the tethered baits the forest department provided her for the last seven years, Machli would have long been dead. There was a reason however, that the majority in the wildlife fraternity were desperate not to lose her…” (

Machli did much to keep her species alive by giving birth to 11 cubs and nurturing them. They reportedly continue to live in Ranathambore National Park. Her contribution was great and she was reported to be the darling of wildlife enthusiasts who visited the park to see her and she is known to have loved to pose for their cameras.

By keeping her alive beyond the time when she could fend for herself, it is debatable whether we had done well by her, because Machli was reduced to living a life that nature would normally never have approved for her. In the normal order of things, Machli would have died years before she actually did, when her faculties were still within her control and her dignity was intact. What we did was to hold on to her because we were so used to her presence and couldn’t bear to let her go. We didn’t pause for a moment to think of what she would have wanted, could she express herself.

So, where is this story leading? Easy. How many Machlis do we have among us? Provocative question? It’s meant to be. With the frenetic efforts being made by the scientific community and the medical fraternity to conquer death, or at least delay it as much as possible, with the advent of predictive medicine, and with the success of newer drugs that increase the life-span of humans with no thought given to quality of life, we are rapidly becoming a society of Machlis – alive, but unproductive, breathing but frail and merely adding years to our lives. But is this where we want to be?

I leave you with this thought!

Bharathi Ghanashyam



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