She gave up a glittering career in her prime to become a shaven nun but Venerable Gyalten Samten’s only regret is not having done this earlier
5/3/2016 7:54:54 PM
|written By : Nithya Subramanian|
A couple of years ago, my best friend who lives in Bangalore dropped a bombshell: our college mate Barkha Madan, who had dropped out of college to become a successful model and actress, had now become a nun!
The attractive if somewhat bindaas classmate I knew had been so taken up by the world of glamour and tinsel that she dropped out barely a year after joining college and had stuck it out long enough to make a success of it. And here she was abjuring it all.
Yet we were not entirely surprised because we both agreed that there had always been “something about her” – a certain otherworldliness - that we could not miss even during our college days.
Recently, a chance meeting at a Nepal fund-raiser with Tara Melwani, a devout Buddhist belonging to the most influential old Sindhi business house in Singapore, helped me reconnect with my old mate. Only this time, she had become Venerable Gyalten Samten, a far cry from the girl who once strutted and owned the catwalk. Despite trading designer outfits for simple maroon and ochre robes and a shorn head, she left an indelible impression on everybody who met her. Her serenity and compassionate demeanour won over even our young teenage interns who shared some deeply personal dilemmas with her.
Barkha Madan, as she was known in the 1990s, was a finalist in the Miss India contest 1994 with Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen and Swetha Menon, and a runner-up at the Miss Tourism International contest at Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, 1994. She acted in many Hindi movies and television serials and also produced documentaries right upto the time she was ordained at the Sera Je Monastery on November 4, 2012 under Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s supervision.
The transformation has been remarkable. As Venerable Samten she exudes an air of tranquility and grace far removed from the ambitious, go-getting young woman in college.