Paul J. Mills, Tiffany Barsotti, Meredith A. Pung, Kathleen L. Wilson, Laura Redwine, and Deepak Chopra Gratitude, along with love, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, and self-knowledge, is a vital attribute of our wellbeing. While there are many definitions of gratitude, at its foundation, gratitude is a healing, life-affirming, and uplifting human experience that shifts us […]
Not a day goes by that someone I encounter doesn’t stop and ask me – “wait, your dad is DEEPAK CHOPRA?! Oh my God, what was it like to grow up with him as a father?!”
I try to be as candid as I can, sugarcoating the fact that he was a physically abusive, self-obsessed, substance abusing a-hole…
But seriously, the first part is true. Most people assume that mine and my sister’s childhood was spent in a celestial monastery somewhere where we perfected the seven spiritual laws of success, meditated, did yoga and lived la vida vegan 24/7.
The prequel: My father was a nicotine addicted medical school grad when he and his newlywed (my mom) arrived in the US right in the middle of the Vietnam War. Hard up for physicians, a New Jersey hospital that served the greater Italian mob population in the area offered my father a position and he quickly took it.
A year or so later, my mom was pregnant with my older sister Mallika. With no health insurance, it was cheaper to send my mom back to India where she could have the baby while my dad kept working the midnight ER shift trying to earn his keep. Fast forward about four years and yours truly was conceived and arrived in the otherwise not-so-notable mid-seventies.
More fast-forward: Deepak worked hard, migrating from Jersey to Boston, cracking the hallowed Boston medical establishment and soon staking his claim with fancy titles like “Chief of Staff” and “Professor.”
But a funny thing happened; dad realized he hated his life. And Junior (that would be me) was old enough to see it. Deepak smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. He often boozed until he passed out for the night. He called himself a legalized drug pusher that “treated diseases, not people,” and envisioned himself earning just enough money to fill two college funds before he himself checked out with the great American stress-induced affliction of heart disease.
I remember that it happened just as I hit my teenage years. My dad woke up.
That’s not some sort of evangelical metaphor. I mean it literally. He says he “woke up” in his car outside a meditation center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He says he can’t remember if he had passed out from working too much or drinking too much (sure…) but remembers thinking to himself how ironic it was that he had lived forty years, and traveled half way across the planet, to have his curiosity peaked by a discipline (meditation) that his own mother had practiced almost every day of her life.
And so he – and subsequently my mother – learned to meditate. And like everything else in my father’s life that he liked to do, he soon became an addict. He quit the smokes and the booze cold turkey and took up meditation hardcore. He also happened to make for the perfect profile for a meditation movement looking to shed its hippy brand and go mainstream. Within a few short years, the guru once made famous for inspiring the Beatles, made it clear that he wanted Deepak to be his heir.
Only Deepak wasn’t interested and abdicated the throne. Mind you, by then, I was in highscool, more interested in the Red Sox, Celtics, and skinemax than worrying about my father’s New Age political maneuvers. I didn’t really notice that at that point, he was a guy stuck between two worlds, but no longer with much of an anchor in either one.
Then Oprah. To this day, people always say they love seeing my father on Oprah. But he was only on once – in 1993. Whatever. Overnight his book (did I skip that part? He had started writing books on health a few years earlier) hit the bestsellers list and he was a media darling. All of a sudden, he was the little snake charmer that could. Pre-politically correct days, they actually called him that!
Super-fast forward through the last 15 years or so during which he went from fringe medicine man to New Age charlatan to maverick mind ruminating on all things relevant, from the root causes of the Kashmir conflict to cancer, from solutions for tabloid romances to terrorism.
I’ve had a front row seat to it all. Through various times, I’ve enjoyed it, endured it, and exploited it with varying results.
So if you really want to know what it’s been like to grow up with Deepak as my father, I guess the word to describe it would be: “different.”
This blog was orginially published on MTV iggy thoughts