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Authors: Deepak Chopra,Sanjiv Chopra

Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #General

Brotherhood Dharma, Destiny and the American Dream

BOOK: Brotherhood Dharma, Destiny and the American Dream
10.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


“Open, honest, and brilliantly written,
reaffirms why our arms, hearts, and policies must remain open to welcome those who are eager to live in the land of promise. Every page contains a thoughtful gem that will enlighten the reader about the universal truths that bind us together. Read this book and take comfort in the knowledge that dreams still matter in America.”
—William S. Cohen, former secretary of defense and chairman and CEO, The Cohen Group
Deepak and Sanjiv beautifully articulate their birthright and the intoxicating and permeative influence it had on their lives as doctors and spiritual practitioners in the Western world. Through their entertaining storytelling, they thoughtfully and humorously depict how, in India, chaos and order, the ancient and modern, and faith and disbelief collide to create enduring influence. I, too, discovered that you can leave India, but that she never leaves you.”
—Jacqueline Lundquist, author and former first lady of the U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, India
“Deepak Chopra and his younger brother, Sanjiv, have written an extraordinary and compelling account of their life’s journey from a privileged upbringing in India to careers in medicine and spirituality in America. It is a story of tradition, of sibling rivalry, of the responsibility to ‘give back at every conceivable opportunity,’ and of immigration to another world to fulfill their respective dharmas. But most of all, it is a story of family, which was their lodestar and remains the touchstone of their lives.”
—Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley
“The story of Deepak and Sanjiv’s lives easily unfolds, bringing us full circle to the knowledge that brotherhood is universal.
takes us on an epic journey discovering the heart of life.”
—Marc Benioff, founder and CEO,

Copyright © 2013 by Deepak Chopra and Sanjiv Chopra

All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Amazon Publishing

P.O. Box 400818

Las Vegas, NV 89140

ISBN-13: 9781477800768

ISBN-10: 147780076X

Book design by Brian Moore
Cover design by Rodrigo Corral
Design / Rachel Adam

Cover art © Brad Walker / Getty Images

Author photographs:
(Deepak) © Todd MacMillan / Not Far
Now Studios; (Sanjiv) © Liza Green

To our amazing and loving parents, Krishan and Pushpa Chopra


To the Reader

1 Sacred River

2 Blind for a Day

3 Charmed Circle

4 Lucky Sari

5 Miracles in Hiding

6 Rama and Lakshmana

7 Laus Deo

8 First on the Waiting List

9 Innocent Bystander

10 Real Doctors

11 Godfather Land

12 First Impressions

13 State of the Art

14 A Giant in Medicine

15 An Obscure Light

16 Being and Bliss

17 The Pathless Land

18 Soothsayer or Charlatan

19 Science of Life

20 Finger on the Pulse

21 Birth Pangs

22 Miraculous Cures

23 American Dreaming

24 Peak Experience



About the Authors

To the Reader

Writing a double memoir was uncharted territory for us. We had no model to follow. When two people write together, they combine their voices as one. Why didn’t we? Deepak could have controlled himself and not bossed his little brother around (he promised). Sanjiv knows how to hold his own and stick out a gentle elbow when in danger of being pushed out of the nest.

Instead, we chose this novel way of presenting the story of our lives, because it proved more exciting for us and, we hope, for the reader. One brother is free to tell how he remembers early days in Jabalpur and Shillong, seeing through his set of eyes memories, nostalgia, denial, and fantasy. Then a second viewpoint is offered. The facts, as it were, don’t change. A big colonial house in Jabalpur where our father saw a stream of patients every day and our mother quietly fed the poorest ones is what it is. Facts are no more than the seed of a memoir. It was better to let each brother sow his own seedlings, free to let the past unfold in its own peculiar way. We didn’t look at each other’s chapters along the way. There were no arguments over who was right.

Another reason to write as separate voices came from our publisher, who felt that beyond the Chopra brothers lay the larger world of immigration and the American dream. The two of us chose to leave India with no money or property except the intellectual property of a medical school diploma and some dreams. Not many Americans were aware of Indian immigration in the Seventies, much less an
“Indian diaspora.” They were focused on their own troubles, for one thing, especially the Vietnam conflict that created a severe doctor shortage and opened the door for two young foreigners to practice medicine here. The general view, to be blunt, was that foreign doctors were necessary but not welcome.

India didn’t want us to leave, either. The government had banned the written examination that a doctor needed to pass before America would grant a work visa. Only a pittance was allowed to be exchanged into dollars for travel abroad. There was a much deeper resistance at work, however. India is a mother culture that actually mothers, that holds its children tight and very reluctantly lets go. As young—and eager to prove ourselves—as we were, we heard tears being shed behind us at the Delhi airport, and not just by our parents. Our choice to step away made us neither fully Indian nor fully American. We had seized a double fate.

At birth, a pair of identical twins shares the same genes, but by the time they turn seventy, their genetic profiles are dramatically unalike. The actual DNA hasn’t changed, but its activity has, rising and falling, recombining thousands of on-off switches. This divergence happened to us, only it was a set of cultural genes that we shared. As you will see, our lives took drastically different paths. Deepak played a major role in bringing Indian spirituality and the medical tradition of Ayurveda to the West. Sanjiv continued on the path of Western medicine to become a professor at Harvard Medical School. There have been times, frankly, when we wondered whether we understood each other’s reality. Such is the fascination and pain of beginning so close.

Today a double fate is more common than ever. By current estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, 20 percent of Americans have at least one parent who was born abroad. The fabric of America has changed, bringing mixed feelings on all sides. So a double memoir made sense for the Chopra brothers. Doubleness remains true for us forty years on, piling up richness and loss, consternation and clarity. Like everyone else, we can look back on lives unlived. The life we did live feels symbolic, however. Brotherhood is universal. A self gets
built, two selves find an orbit around each other, a society absorbs them into a collective fabric that is never the same tomorrow as it was yesterday. We wanted to share our journey with everyone who is building a self in the same complex and often mysterious way.




Sacred River


Deepak as a toddler with parents, Krishan and Pushpa Chopra, 1949. Krishan was an army doctor at the time.


If the priest didn’t mumble these exact words, then his gesture told me to take hold of the stick in his hand. It was time. I was the oldest son. By rights the oldest son is the one to poke a hole in the father’s skull, releasing his soul from this life to the next.

Only vaguely did I know about this ancient ritual. I’d never seen it. Hesitating, I glanced over at my brother, Sanjiv. Being the younger son, he would go next.

This is totally bizarre.

My thought stayed with me. The priest was running everything. Sanjiv and I were almost irrelevant: two modern bystanders caught up in ancestral ways. We had flown back to New Delhi the moment we received news of our father’s sudden death.

The smoke from burning bodies raised an indescribable smell around us and dirtied the sky. It must have been a strong stench, but at that moment I was immune to it. Each pyre occupied its own small plot in the burning
or cremation ground. Women were keening. The logs for cremation formed a social order—cheap wood for the poor; expensive, fragrant sandalwood for those who could afford it. Orange marigolds were also scattered over the bodies of the well-to-do before the fire was lit.

The priest was eyeing me, wanting to move on; this was his daily business. Meanwhile I felt a strange detachment. Centuries of tradition said, “You must not forget us,” and I obeyed, taking the stick from the priest’s hand.

In the flames, which were transparent in the noonday sun, I could glimpse the shape of my father’s body. The shroud had burned away, and the remains were more skeleton than corpse. No horror overcame
me. A part of my mind stood apart, admiring the efficiency of the ghat. The fires burned very hot and finished their work with dispatch.

Daddy had been alive thirty-six hours ago. He had sat up late to watch, with no enthusiasm, George W. Bush take the oath of office. It was 2001, his first inaugural. That morning, he had walked grand rounds at Moolchand Hospital as usual, with a line of young doctors in tow, and had mentioned to my mother as he kissed her good night that he was feeling a bit of discomfort. Better call K. K. in the morning, one of the young doctors who worked with him, just in case. Now there was empty space where once a person had vibrated with life.

How is an adult defined? Someone who knows the value of doing what he doesn’t like to do. So I did it, driving the pointed end of the stick into my father’s skull. I once read a medical memoir by Michael Crichton that began with a shocking sentence: “It is not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw.” Poking a hole in one is easy, though, if it has crumbled nearly to ashes.

How long would I remain this detached?

I passed the stick to Sanjiv and managed to keep my eyes on him without flinching after what I had done. When we’re together, I’m the quiet one. But we both occupied a somber silence at that moment, and a shared bewilderment.

Death is bewildering. The survivors confront something worse than deep sadness—sheer emptiness. A void in the vicinity of the heart holding a place for pain to fill in later. In Buddhism it is said that there is no alternative to emptiness; it only matters how you face it. Unknown to me, I would face it very differently than I imagined.

BOOK: Brotherhood Dharma, Destiny and the American Dream
10.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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