“Becoming Goan”: The Coming-Home Story of Michelle Bambawale


By Steve Antao

In her first attempt at writing a book, Michelle Mendonça Bambawale takes readers on an intimate journey through her life in her recently released “Becoming Goan”. The book talks about her life in Goa after she returned to the state and settled in her ancestral village of Siolim during the pandemic. It narrates her observations about life and current developments in present-day Siolim and contrasts it with life in the village during the 70s and 80s – a time when she used to spend her summer holidays in Siolim. 

Her Early Life and Professional Qualifications

Michelle in 1978

Michelle was born in 1966 in a Goan Catholic household in Pune. She did her schooling at St. Anne’s High School and Convent of Jesus and Mary. After completing her schooling, Michelle joined Ness Wadia College and graduated in Commerce in 1986. After this, she moved to Mumbai to pursue a Post-Graduate Diploma in Social Communications and Media at Sophia Polytechnic.

Her Professional Career

After completing her diploma, Michelle kickstarted her career, working for various advertising agencies in Mumbai in the late ’80s. In 1990, she ventured into the field of education and joined “Parisar Asha”, an environmental education centre in Mumbai. There, she created videos and documentary films as teaching aids. After the birth of her son Kunal in 1991, she worked as a freelance writer, contributing articles for publications like “The Times of India”, “Young Mother”, and “Femina”. 

Between 1993 and 2011, Michelle’s husband Bharat’s career commitments caused her and her family to move to Dubai, and then to Bangkok and London. During her 10 years in Dubai, Michelle contributed articles for leading daily newspapers, worked as a marketing communications professional for a subsidiary of Emirates, and was also a part of the team that set up “Ten Sports” in Dubai.

Michelle in Dubai in 1994

After moving to Bangkok in 2003, Michelle joined the curriculum department at the prestigious “International School Bangkok”. There, she used to support teachers in tracking data and assessing curriculum. When she relocated to London in 2008, she pursued her Master’s in Education (Curriculum Pedagogy and Assessment) from the Institute of Education, University College, London and successfully graduated in 2010.

In 2011, Michelle and Bharat moved back to India. This time, to the national capital New Delhi, where Michelle worked for an educational consultancy, building professional learning communities and designing curriculum. In 2018, she started freelancing as an educational consultant with the British Council, supporting the team across India in the delivery of face-to-face training, development of teacher-related education materials and resources, and monitoring and evaluation of teacher education projects across India. 

Her Connection to Goa

Michelle’s grandparents were natives of Goa. Her father, Albert Mendonça was from Siolim, and he inherited the house she currently resides in from his father Jerome Mendonça. Her father’s mother Lulu Tavares came from neighbouring Assagao. Michelle’s mother, Bridget D’Lima e Mendonça, was from Porvorim. Both her mother’s parents were born there; her mother Eslinda Vaz was from Arrarim, and her father Marshall D’Lima was from Lima Vaddo. 

Michelle in 1989 at her grandmother’s house in Porvorim.

During her childhood, Michelle used to spend most of her summer holidays in Siolim. She used to also visit the houses of each of her four grandparents during those days. These visits gave Michelle a strong sense of belonging to Goa, and the village of Siolim in particular.

Casa Mendonça

Michelle and her husband Bharat always dreamed of living in Goa. Like so many others, their dream was to live close to the beach. As the beaches of Calangute, Candolim and Baga started getting crazy, crowded and commercial, they realised the impracticality of that idea and decided to look for a place in the village. 

Michelle with her husband Bharat in Siolim in April 1989

That’s when Michelle’s father Albert asked them if they were interested in living in his ancestral house in Siolim. The house was originally built in 1859 by Michelle’s grandfather Jeronimo Mendonça’s grandfather who was also named Jeronimo Mendonça. Michelle and Bharat were thrilled at the idea and immediately started working on their plan to extend and restore the house. They worked with their talented Goan architect Amit Sukhthankar to complete the restoration of the house. The work of the house was completed in 2009, and the house was named “Casa Mendonça”. 

The original house stands solid at the centre of the property and remains the soul of the house. The extensions bring contemporary comforts but retain the high Goan ceilings typical of the original house. 

Picture of Michelle’s ancestral house in Siolim (Picture taken in 1966)

Her Return to Goa

The Covid-19 pandemic prompted Michelle to move into Casa Mendonça in June 2020 along with her family and her pet dogs. Since then, she spends most of her time managing her house garden, fruit trees and her dogs. She also tries the many new restaurants in Goa, goes for heritage walks and walks on the beach, and is always on the look-out for new Goan adventures. 

Michelle at Casa Mendonca with her furry friends Haruki, Rusty, and Roo.

The Inspiration Behind Writing “Becoming Goan”

After relocating to Goa amidst the pandemic, Michelle got a lot of time to reflect on her identity and her Goan roots. She spent time meeting an extended circle of her family and friends and learning the history, customs and traditions of Goa. Gradually, she started experiencing a visceral connection to this land of her ancestors. 

All these experiences drove her to start penning the experiences of her new life in modern-day Siolim. She began writing as she was looking for a way to process her emotions and record this important time in her life; the uncertainty of a pandemic on one hand, and the solidity of reconnecting to her roots in Goa on the other. These reflections gave birth to her first book, “Becoming Goan”.

Michelle posing with a copy of her book “Becoming Goan”.

Synopsis of the Book

In “Becoming Goan”, Michelle confronts her complex relationship with her Goan Catholic heritage. She had never lived in Goa before the Covid-19 pandemic, and wonders if her Goan ancestry made her an insider or if she would forever remain an outsider. She explores themes of identity, culture, migration, stereotypes, and labels in her thought-provoking book. She takes readers back to Siolim and Goa in the 70s and 80s, where she spent her summer vacations. During that time, there were no paved roads or electricity in the village, and people used to draw water from wells. She contrasts that glorious period with the realities of present-day Siolim, where she dodges earth movers and piles of plastic waste daily when she walks her Labrador Haruki on the streets of the village. 

Michelle’s labrador dog Haruki in front of the Casa Mendonça gate

“Becoming Goan” is a heartfelt and charming story of Michelle’s love for Goa, specifically for her ancestral village of Siolim. In the book, she talks about the environmental impact of tourism, construction, and mining on Goa’s rich biodiversity. She explores the evolving identity of Goa, accelerated by the pandemic-induced surge in travel and migration. She grapples with the labels of local, Goan and outsider. With real anecdotes and stories, she reflects on her dual identity, straddling traditional Goan roots and contemporary influences. 

The book discusses Goan culture beyond stereotypes, highlighting the dichotomy—its lush beauty contrasted with infrastructure challenges and encroaching urbanization. Michelle’s book offers insights into personal identity, encouraging readers to reflect on preserving biodiversity and culture amid Goa’s changing landscape. 

Her Future Plans

In the years to come, Michelle hopes to work with various elected representatives and authorities to bring about several changes in Siolim. She wishes to see things like the availability of reliable public transport, a well-laid-out sewage system, regular electricity and water supply, and good roads with sidewalks to walk in the village. She also aims to lobby various authorities to bring about legislation that would make the provision of adequate parking spaces compulsory for those building new residential and commercial buildings.

Details Regarding Availability of The Book

Michelle’s book “Becoming Goan” is available in leading book stores all across Goa. It will be released on 22nd December to whoever has pre-ordered it on Amazon, and will also be available in bookshops across India. In early January 2024, Michelle will be having an event at her residence to commemorate the release of her book. Her daughter Divya, sister Ingrid and other members of her family and close friends will all be present. She also plans to do book events at bookstores, shops, and restaurants across Goa and at the Goa Arts And Literary Fest In February 2024 to promote her book.

Michelle’s book “Becoming Goan” is available for purchase at the following bookstores in Goa:

Literati, Calangute, Confidant (Golden Heart Emporium), Margao, The Dogears Bookshop, Margao, Broadway Bookstore, Panaji, Singbal’s Book House, Panaji, and Champaca, Anjuna.

Copies will also be available at the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa, Museum of Goa, Pilerne No Nasties, Assagao, Savio Jon, Ethico, and Green Chokrees, in Siolim, OMO Clothing Store, Panaji, Tea Trunk, Fontainhas, Panaji, Wish Goa, Vasco, Studio Saree Speak, Panaji, Medini Eco Lifestyle, Mapusa, and Green Essentials (Socorro and Seraulim)