The two brothers played around with a medium sized round smooth stone that looked like a ball. As they both ran for the coveted kick, their mother signaled them to be back home. Serabi looked fondly at her sons. A single mother that she was, she had a long way to go in preparing her sons for an uncertainty riddled future that awaited them. After all, one day they will grow up and they will have to battle the challenges of this dangerous world all by themselves.
Kumal and Sangha were oblivious to the thoughts that bothered their mother. For them, it had been just playtime and tummy time until a few months ago, when they were barely able to open their eyes. But now, Serabi felt, the sooner they learn the rules of their tribe, the better. And most importantly, she had to bring them both on the same page, considering how different the brothers were from each other. From the time they were born, both siblings were like chalk and cheese. Kumal, the first born exuded aggression. He would go looking for trouble and dabbled in unprecedented risks all the time. Sangha, on the other hand was docile. Also, he was more cautious about venturing alone. Serabi, being the practical mother spent more time with the younger one, knowing for a fact, she had less to worry about the elder one. After all, Kumal was independent. He would survive the odds, come what may. However, Serabi had one thing to do, before she had to leave her sons, a tough decision made already. She had to prepare her sons for their lives ahead. She had to train them. She had to make sure that her sons were ready to do what the members of her tribe did best. And that was, to hunt!
Marco had been observing the life of this resilient tigress for a long time and had been documenting every detail of Serabi’s life ever since she became an adult. When she saw Marco for the first time, she was untrusting, scowling and roaring at the strange instruments that glared back at her. However, in the months to follow, Serabi exhibited a comfort level with Marco, probably concluding that he and his instruments were no threat. She rendered both, harmless and useless respectively. Needless to say, it had taken Marco a great deal of time, patience and grit to have been able to communicate with Serabi in untold ways. For instance, she would even pose for the camera if she was in a good mood. In other times, she would totally ignore Marco and lie down with her back facing the camera. Apparently, Serabi had realized that all humans don’t poach and all men with a gun in hand do not hunt. Marco was one of those few living good men for her, as he advocated tiger protection. He worked with his team – Save the Tigers, hard to breed the endangered royal cats in captivity. And bringing Serabi under their wing was a big step towards achieving their dream of breeding more tigers. Serabi had given birth to a litter of four from which two succumbed to death because of medical complications. But Kumal and Sangha were born healthy. Once they were a few months old, Serabi and her cubs were left in the same jungle from where she was picked up and not forgetting to mention, their lives were monitored. She knew, she had to go back again, once the cubs were trained to become the tough, ruthless and able predators, that was expected of them.
Serabi, like all mothers of her kind hunted and brought the food for her cubs. Of course, Kumal and Sangha were very small then. And that time, she too had limited hunting stints as she was nursing them and it was dangerous for her to leave the cubs alone and go hunting. But now, Kumal and Sangha were almost adults and they were gradually showing a sense of self dependence. All she had to do was now teach them to hunt sans assistance. For instance, Serabi would bring a live fawn and leave it among them, to see if the brothers were fast in pinning the creature by the neck and biting it off. Kumal, being the aggressor always managed the first attack flawlessly. Whereas, Sangha still had to catch up in pace, stealth and aggression, all of which were prerequisites for a seasoned predator. The second time, Serabi had planned the attack on a herd of chitals, as she covered for Kumal and Sangha, where both had to grab the nearest prey, each. However, due to Sangha’s indecisiveness and lack of time precision and, the sharp hearing sense of spotted deer, the plan failed. Serabi thought over. And this time, she was planning something big, something that would bring out the ferocity in Sangha. After a few days, she prepared the young cubs for a big guerrilla attack. And this time, she raised the bar.
Serabi was planning a hit on a herd of buffaloes that were grazing on a large patch of pastures near their hunting ground. She lay low with her sons, observing the movement of the herd and trying to figure out the weakest link in the herd. She signaled Kumal to be where he is, and ordered Sangha to charge first. Sangha was reluctant as he moved behind but, his position allowed him just one thing: Do or die! His mother had positioned him near the water patch that was inhabited by crocodiles. It was a tricky spot. A slight miss in focus would make him the hunted. And then he had looked at his brother, who looked through him, as if saying, “Now is the right time! Charge!”. Sangha focused on the herd again and saw a baby buffalo drifting away from the herd towards the water patch. Yes, this was his moment. He crawled stealthily as his bright black stripes camouflaged his striking appearance midst the yellowish green grasslands. He had to take extra care as he couldn’t go too near the water patch, as he had already spotted a crocodile boss also aiming at his subject. And then, that precise moment when the baby buffalo suddenly stopped drinking, alerted by rustling of leaves, Sangha charged. He grabbed the young mammal and bit his neck, bringing him down on the ground with a thud. He dragged his food away as Kumal and Serabi sprang up from their locations and made a move. The herd was alerted as they raced against time to escape the gnashing teeth of the royal cats.
The aim of the outcome was achieved. Serabi would now go back to captivity, to breed. Her sons were now ready. Kumal and Sangha looked at their mother, as she was caged in a big van and was being taken away. And then, they turned back and made their way towards the jungle. Yes, they had heard a growl. A mating call. It was time for the hunters to enter a new phase. It was time to breed more Kumals and Sanghas. It was time to balance the food chain, the right way, the only way!
P.S: Inspiration for this story is drawn from NatGeo and Animal Planet that features a lot of programs on the nature of tigers, their endangerment and their breeding in captivity. And the names Kumal and Sangha have been taken from the movie: Two brothers. The story above is a small attempt from my side just to imply that even five sensed creatures have the going tough. They go by the rule that lets them live – Survival of the fittest! There is just no choice!