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.
Q: As the son of a teacher to many, did you feel like you had a different perspective growing up than other children?
Gotham Chopra: Well, my dad wasn't always such a wise guy! Probably until I was about 13 years old or so, my father was a pretty traditional physician, working in various hospitals, working endless shifts, trying to make the ends meet, and had destructive addictions to boot—alcohol and tobacco, most notably. It was only after he had his own personal transformation that, I think, his professional transformation really followed. And then it pretty much culminated in 1993 when he was on The Oprah Winfrey Show! So all in all, yeah, it was definitely a different experience, and the exposure I had to people, from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Michael Jackson, was pretty wild, though I'm not sure that, as a kid, I ever really appreciated it!
Q: What has surprised you most about fatherhood?
Gotham Chopra: How it just keeps getting better. There are often times I am just so in love with my kid that I tell myself that this is it; it's all culminated in this moment, and it can't get better. And then it does! Really, it's just so great to watch the universe imprint itself on this fresh, curious consciousness of a child. This morning, we walked the dog super early and got to see the stars in the early-morning sky. When we came home, my 6-year-old asked if we could go online and look at star maps so we knew what we were looking at. So we did, and I'm a lot wiser for it!
Q: What's Deepak Chopra like as a grandfather?
Gotham Chopra: He's a lot more present than he was as a father, that's for sure! He's very patient, and humble, and playful—qualities that I don't think he really had time for when he was busy earning his way through his career so that my sister and I could get the educations we did and be set up to accomplish what we have. There was a time I was probably bitter over my dad never being the guy at my soccer game or taking me to Fenway Park (we grew up in Boston), but now I have perspective, and I am very grateful for everything both my parents sacrificed to provide for me.
Q: What's your idea of the perfect Sunday?
Gotham Chopra: Wake up early. Walk the dog. Work out. Farmers' market with the fam. "Super Soul Sunday," or course! Football. Football. Football. Family dinner. Did I mention I am a football fan?
Q: What three things can't you live without?
Gotham Chopra: My family. My health. My many sports packages on DirecTV. (It's the only way I can watch my hometown Boston teams [now that I'm] living out in L.A.!)
Tune in to the premiere of Help Desk with Deepak Chopra on Sunday, September 22, at noon ET/PT on OWN. Then, stay tuned for another episode of Help Desk with the Rev. Ed Bacon at 12:30 p.m. ET/PT.