Studio portraits of Mumbai's itinerant nomads

Avi sez, "Mumbai photographer David de Souza has just put together a collection of amazing studio photos of Mumbai's colorful Nomads." The book, "Itinerants, the Nomads of Mumbai," looks and sounds like a doozy. but doesn't seem to have much in the way of distribution outside of India.
Charmayne sets the subjects of David’s photos back into movement through poetic inspiration. Her writing reminds us of the mythical dimension of itinerant life, which is present in every civilization. Sedentary societies have indeed always had an ambivalent relationship to the people of the wind, as Japanese villagers call them. Itinerants have been perceived in turns as indispensable trading partners, threatening agents of change and as objects of desire. David and Charmayne’s images and words bring to life some of the multiple avatars of that nomadic spirit that all of us carry deep inside and which refuses to leave.

This is probably why, turning these pages, even those of us who chose or inherited comfort and security cannot help but sigh at the thought of these untied lives, which seem to be fed by faith and magic more than anything else. Of course nomadic life, as intense and meaningful as it can be, is usually driven by necessity more than choice. But for an instant, it is liberating to believe that most of the people in this book would never trade itinerancy for routine and standardization.

The Itinerants of Mumbai (Thanks, Avi!)


  1. Shouldn’t that headline read “wandering itinerant nomads”?

    (Couldn’t resist a straight line offered up so clearly.)

  2. when you misread this and substitute “gonad” for “nomad”, this post was a real eye catcher… and then a disappointment.

  3. @AVI SOLOMON – I think its the power of hunger and not the power of religion that makes such acts possible.

  4. @SRIKANTH – Hunger does not explain all of it, just my hunch based upon a personal encounter with one of these men. When you have nothing left, God is all one has, though one may wonder what kind of God.

  5. To even suggest that these unfortunates would choose that life if they actually had a choice between thier currentl life and life as the pampered offspring of the ever shrinking elite class is hopelessly romantic and idiotic.

    It never fails to astound me just how far removed from reality are the people who have never had to wonder where their next meal is going to come from, or where they are are going to sleep.

    But hey, we are in Fat city, so lets move on to the next distraction…

  6. It’s hardly distributed even in India. The de Souzas published it themselves, and seem to mainly be selling it (so far, anyway) on their own. Neither Strand Bookstall and Oxford Books list it on their websites, and Crossword Bookstores still don’t have a searchable list of titles on their site.

    I found a number of interesting newspaper articles by googling their name, including an article that comes with a short video interview at

    David de Souza’s email address is included at the end of the mid-day story, for anyone who wants to purchase a copy of the book.

  7. Hi I’m the author David, thank you for this discussion. The wonderful thing about a book is who and where and how it seeks its own discussion and readership. Yes to the above, it is self published, its been in the making for 12 years but why it took that long is academic at this moment. It is out now and continues to bring us great joy.

    As of now it is true that we are self distributing too and are happy to report that in about a month since its launch we have sold from our garage more than half our print run.

    Distributors consume upto 65% of the book price which leaves very small margins for the authors. So we thought until we recover our print costs at least to do the whole hog ourselves. I will be posting shortly on my own website the how-to of self publishing, and how to produce exquisite, international quality photo books yourself. The day is fast coming when we can do with minimal corporate intervention.

    Till of course we get it onto Amazon and other such e-transaction-able sites you can order your copy internationally by sending us a cheque for US $75 + US $15 for the postage and we will post the book to you anywhere in the world.

    Please mark your cheque out in the name of David de Souza Photography, and mail it to David de Souza, 11-B Thakur Niwas, 173, J. Tata Rd, Mumbai 400 020, India.

    and my email id for you to check progress is

    allow 15-20 days delivery time from the day I receive your cheque.

    I am going to post soon ways and means of wire transferring your money so that you will have instant feed-back too that your money has been credited.

    thanks and enjoy our book.

    david de souza

  8. its me again, I have just been encountering what are euphemistically called de-notified tribes during a huge mela (religious pilgrimage). Many of india’s nomads would not want a settled life for all the tea in china, they have migratory routes like birds and zebra and despite the numerous governmental schemes to settle them, that have failed miserably, they chose what might appear as poverty and insecurity.

    In fact these people cant even claim citizenship, for that would mean a domicile, a ration card and a voters card. So you can imagine how ‘invisible’ they might become and how by those standards exploitable too.

    So I am willing to bet that the psyche and soma have a lot more going on than we understand. I guess the trick is to empathetic. It is truly a stretch when you find people with such opposing value systems.

    The trouble is that we like the homogenous and anything that sticks out like a sore thumb is deemed deviant.

  9. @IYOU
    and if you are Mumbai based, you can get the book at Strand Book Stall and Nalanda, in south mumbai and Danaii and Granth in the suburbs, Oxford, Landmark and CrossWord etc need a distributor and therein lies the syndicated catch see.

  10. A copy copy of our book Itinerants – Mumbai’s nomads would at this moment need to be shipped out of Mumbai in India, the cost of the book is US $ 75 + US $15 for shipping, allow 15-20 days for delivery once we receive your payment.

    wire transfer it to:
    David de Souza Photography
    Citibank Ac/no 0842340004
    code CITI INBX

    Citibank N.A.
    293. Dr. D.N. Road
    Fort, Mumbai 400001

    tel +9122 22661873 – Kavita Kumble

    pls do email me your mailing address dont forget

  11. Hey David,

    I think it must be a great book. I remember, you working with IBH.

    I must say I always liked your work.

    Great book!

    Keep in touch.
    Sachin Ghodke

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