‘We are all educated, nice people’ — UPDATED

Mahender and Varsha Sabhnani, the Long Island couple who enslaved and abused two Indonesian women,Sabhnani

will be sentenced on Thursday and Friday respectively in federal court. According to a New York Times article, Mahender may be sent to prison for five or six years, with his wife getting 12 to 15. I’d like to see Mahender get at least 10 years, even if the poor guy has already served 27 years of being married to Varsha.

He may not have committed the atrocities himself, but he was aware of what was going on and could have stopped it. Come to think of it, the couple’s children are also culpable to a lesser degree. Their oldest child, Pooja Sabhnani, tries to defend her parents in the Times article.

She said of the workers, “We got them Christmas presents. I got them
sneakers from K-Mart. They said we didn’t give them winter coats. They
had coats.”

She continued: “They said we never brought them out.
We took them out in the snow. We took their picture and explained to
them, ‘We are taking your picture. When you go back, you’ll get this
picture. We’ll give the picture to you, and you can bring it home so
you can show your children that you saw snow.’ ” [Link]

So the workers did get to go outside — on one occasion when it was snowing. Varsha was probably in a good mood that day. “Come outside and see the beautiful snow,” she said. “And don’t come back inside until it’s all been shoveled.”

What’s particularly galling to me is the attitude of one of the Sabhnanis’ friends.

“This case is very frightening for Indian families here,” said Bharat
Jotwani, a wealthy friend of the Sabhnanis’ who lives nearby. “We are
all educated, nice people. We came here to make it.” [Link]

He’s quoted again at the end of the article:

“There is no way on earth any Indian family in the United States could
do what they were accused of,” he said. “The [Indian] people I know
here all feel this way. Anybody from India who has come here comes from
a very good family.” [Link]

NewsdayNo way on earth? Jotwani is obviously not keeping his eye on the police blotter. Doesn’t he know that Indian-Americans are starting to excel in yet another field?

UPDATE: Varsha Sabhnani has been given a 11-year prison sentence and ordered to forfeit the family 
. The judge didn’t follow the federal sentencing guidelines, which called for 12 to 15 years behind bars. The lies letters must have helped. Mahender has been sentenced to 40 months in prison, less than four years. It’s like he’s going off to college, except with no exams and better food.

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.


  1. Indians take advantage of people who are poor. Yeah rich Indians do that. In America(A nation formed by men who owned slaves and told the rest that all are equal in that land) So Indians with money in a power hungry nation are slave drivers!!!

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