The first time I heard anything about Gurbaksh Chahal, I was on my couch watching Oprah. He was sitting on her stage looking handsome and confident and when Oprah began her interview with him, I was hooked. I found him to be interesting and intelligent. I learned that at the age of 18, he sold his first company ClickAgents for $40 million. He then went on to sell his second startup, BlueLithium, for $300 million to Yahoo at the young age of 25.
He was poised, well spoken and proud of his Indian heritage. His parents won a green card lottery in 1985 and left Punjab, India to settle in San Jose, California. I could sense his pride in coming from rags and turning it into riches.
You can watch Oprah’s interview with Gurbaksh Chahal here.
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After that episode of The Oprah Show, in which you could even see Oprah’s admiration for his achievements, he was on the South Asian radar for anyone and everyone. I respected his work ethic and hey, he was pretty easy on the eyes. In 2009, he was featured on Extra TV as one of America’s Most Eligible Bachelors.
I liked him. I liked that a simple boy from a simple family in Punjab had made it to the big leagues of American technology entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. I’m always a sucker for stories of humble beginnings and the underdog.
However, last August, Chahal made headlines for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend 117 times after police responded to a domestic violence call made from his apartment. All of it was allegedly caught on video due to the security cameras he had installed in his San Francisco penthouse. According to news reports, in the span of half an hour, he allegedly repeatedly hit her on
the head, assaulted her with a pillow over her face, covered her mouth to obstruct her breathing and hit her in the lower body several times. According to San Francisco officer Anh Nguyen, his girlfriend had told police officers that he had told her four times, “I am going to kill you,,” and that she was in fear of her life. He was arrested but posted bail for $1 million.
This week, a judge threw out the video evidence because it was ‘seized unlawfully by police’. His girlfriend very abruptly decided not to testify against him in court. Chahal managed to avoid any jail time however he’s agreed to do community service and enroll in a domestic violence program for roughly one year.
The internet has been buzzing with so many opinions on this case. Some people have commented that his girlfriend had just confessed that she had cheated on him in Vegas therefore she deserved it, others say he’s a poor soul who needs help with his temper but most tweets and Facebook posts I’m reading are filled with outrage.
Outrage that yet another South Asian man is setting an example for the rest. Yes, this kind of violence happens every day all over the world. Yes, the reason this case is special is because of his previous successes and fame.
On the Masalamommas Facebook page, a discussion was started regarding this case. Many of the comments are understandably heated and passionate. Ranging from Chahal being just another brown guy with a bad temper to insinuating that he is an egotistical and entitled jerk. Others are hoping the alleged security footage is leaked for the world to see him in all of his rage. It seems the underlying opinion is to want him to feel humiliated.
While searching for his story online, I came across a picture of his now deceased grandmother, who he held in high esteem and who passed away a few years ago. I can only wonder what she would have thought of her grandson’s temper and lack of respect for women. As the mother of two young boys, I know I want them to be successful adults, both financially and emotionally. But if I can teach them anything in life, it would be to ALWAYS respect women, no matter what. To me, that is much more valuable than any amount of money.
Shouldn’t rich people have to pay for their mistakes too? In the world we live in, it seems not.
For anyone living in a situation like this, there ARE other options. It is NEVER okay for a man to raise his hand on you. If you or someone you know is living with domestic violence, speak up and talk to someone, anyone including police. Most importantly there are resources in your community who can help give you a voice.
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