In the city that never sleeps, there are bound to be more than a few restless minds. Leave it to a man named Gotham to set up a help desk in the middle of Madison Square Park with world-renowned spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra—for free. Not wanting to leave the West Coast out, he then took his social experiment to Venice Beach and set up shop with the Rev. Ed Bacon.
That Gotham is Gotham Chopra, award-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, New England Patriots fanatic, Chopra Media founder and creator/host of OWN's upcoming special Help Desk. (And, yes, he is Deepak's son.) Find out more about the man behind Help Desk, discover what it was like growing up as the son of a widely celebrated teacher, and see who is showing him the world through a whole new perspective.
Q: Why was it important for you to create a show like Help Desk?
Gotham Chopra: I've had the incredible fortune of growing up around my father and many of the other luminaries and wisdom teachers of different traditions, and had a front-row seat to their fantastic insights and life skills. Still, far too often, their teachings can be confined to the boxes of Self-Help and New Age and often, as a result, feel too disconnected from real people with real problems. To me, Help Desk is really about bridging that gulf—bringing these incredible teachers straight to the people. We are literally taking some of the wisest minds on the planet today, setting them in public places and letting anyone come talk to them about the challenges they are facing in their lives and get practical, useful, enlightening advice. Pretty cool if you ask me!
Q: What does your name mean? Is there an interesting story behind how you were named?
Gotham Chopra: It's a long and tangled story! The original spelling of my name is Gautam, but I've always pronounced it as Gotham (like the city). Years ago, when I started doing television, one of my producers recommended that I start spelling it as Gotham so that people would pronounce it correctly. I said, "Sure, whatever," and a legend was born! Many people assume that my parents must have been Batman lovers or something, but the origins of my name are actually much cooler! Gautam comes from Gautama, which actually was the first name of Lord Buddha, so my name means "the enlightened one." How it became the name of Batman's native city I can't really tell you!
Q: Do you have a motto or philosophy you live by? What is it and why?
Gotham Chopra: "Don't take yourself too seriously." I've grown up around a lot of spiritual insight and aphorisms, but the moment you become too fundamentalist about any of them, I think, all perspective is lost. It's way too easy to get caught up in the ordinary, everyday stresses of life if you don't actively reflect on the never-ending mystery of existence. I remind myself daily not to get too stressed out over little things and to remember just how fleeting everything really is.
Q: What's your favorite quotation and why?
Gotham Chopra: I don't know if there's any one particular quote that I keep in my hip pocket or fall back on. I find new ones all the time. How about the Sufi mystic poet Rumi: "I want to sing like birds sing, not worrying about who hears and what they think." I think it speaks for itself. The moment you really become detached from other people's judgment is the moment you're truly spiritually liberated.