How could this happen in America?

A millionaire couple of Indian descent have been convicted of enslaving two Indonesian womenSabhnani they had brought to America as housekeepers.

Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, and his wife,
Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 45, were each convicted of all charges in a
12-count federal indictment that included forced labor, conspiracy,
involuntary servitude, and harboring aliens.

Prosecutors
said the women were subjected to repeated psychological and physical
abuse and were forced to work 18 hours or more a day.

The Sabhnanis, who have four children and operate a worldwide perfume
business out of their Muttontown home on Long Island’s Gold Coast,
could face up to 40 years in prison, although attorneys predicted the
punishment would be considerably less. [Link]

Their perfume business produced three brands that were particularly popular in Saudi Arabia: Entrapment, Oppression and Subjugation.

One of the couple’s daughters, Dakshina,
collapsed in the front row as the verdict was read, prompting the judge
to clear the courtroom while medical personnel attended to her.

Defense
attorney Jeffrey Hoffman said he would appeal. "Apparently, the jury
was taken by the histrionics …" of the Indonesian women, he said.

Fellow
defense lawyer Stephen Scaring said another of the Sabhnanis’ children,
daughter Tina, told him: "We never did anything to anybody, how could
this happen to us in America?" [Link]

It’s a good question, really. How could something like this happen to good people like the Sabhnanis? Let’s look at some of the charges and see if Mrs. Sabhnani has a logical explanation.

Charge: They forced the women to work 18 hours or more a day. Explanation: "We work 18 hours a day too! What else is there in life except work?"

Charge: They made the women eat 25 hot peppers at one
time. Explanation: "We eat 25 hot peppers all the time. It’s a special treat for us."

Charge: They beat the women with brooms and umbrellas. Explanation: "We beat each other with brooms and umbrellas too. It’s a form of affection for us."

Charge: They punished the women for misdeeds by making them repeatedly climb stairs. Explanation: "We don’t have an elevator. If we had one, we would have gladly let them use it."

Charge: They punished the women by making them take freezing cold showers. Explanation: "My husband takes cold showers all the time. Every time he looks at me, he feels like taking a cold shower."

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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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