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Mumbai: Rare belongings of Dr Salim Ali on display at BNHS

In 1974, Dr Salim Ali wrote to Maruti Chitampalli asking him to refer to the Maharashtra government’s Gazetteer on Flora and Fauna, which has been brought out in association with the BNHS.
Last Updated : 07 November 2023, 13:16 IST
Last Updated : 07 November 2023, 13:16 IST

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Mumbai: As a young wildlife enthusiast, Maruti Chitampalli wrote a letter to the legendary ornithologist, naturalist and conservationist Dr Salim Ali in 1963 seeking guidance about books on bird life in English. 

In fact, he got a reply from Salim Ali, (12 November, 1896 – 20 June, 1987), popularly known as the ‘Birdman of India’. 

Born on November 5, 1932, the Chitampalli, known as ‘Aranya Rishi’ (sage of the jungle), is also an accomplished writer who made Marathi literature richer by adding one lakh new words. 

Thereafter, the duo corresponded several times over decades.

In 1974, Dr Salim Ali wrote to Maruti Chitampalli asking him to refer to the Maharashtra government’s Gazetteer on Flora and Fauna, which has been brought out in association with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). 

A few days ago, BNHS Director Kishor Rithe drove to Solapur and presented a copy of the letters to Maruti Chitampalli - in what was an emotional meeting. Rithe was accompanied by Dr Vyankatesh Metan, an orthopaedic surgeon and conservationist from Solapur. 

The meeting coincided with Maharashtra government’s Bird Week, which is celebrated between November 5 to 12, every year.

November 5 marks the birthday of Chitampalli and November 12 is the birth anniversary of the late Dr Ali.  

“Both are legends and they have inspired several generations. They will continue to inspire generations to come with their volume of work,” Rithe told DH at Hornbill House, the Mumbai headquarters of the BNHS.

Coinciding with the occasion, the BNHS is holding an exhibition of personal belongings of Dr Ali in Mumbai. 

About the meeting with Chitampalli, Rithe said, “When I told him about the letter, he recalled writing it. He was touched to receive the copy of the letter that he wrote to Salim Ali.” 

“Dr Salim Ali has willed his personal belongings, letters and articles to BNHS. We have carefully preserved it and kept it in our library,” said Nirmala Barure, who heads the BNHS Library. 

“We have a collection of his personal belongings, including letters, diaries, field notes, typewriter, cameras, binoculars, telescope, passports, and awards,” she said.

It needs to be mentioned, Maruti Chitampalli completed schooling and enrolled himself in State Forest Service College in Coimbatore. Thereafter, he joined the forest services in Maharashtra from where he retired as Deputy Chief Conservator of Forest.

He has worked extensively in the Vidarbha region. An author of 25 books on wildlife, he also presided over the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan in Solapur in 2006 – a rare distinction for a wildlife conservationist.

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Published 07 November 2023, 13:16 IST

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