Neha Rastogi had a great time at Apple. From working on Siri to FaceTime and even sitting next to Steve Jobs at times.
Who could have possibly imagined that someday she will be compelled to use her iPhone to record moments of domestic abuse during her 10 year marriage with a CEO in Silicon Valley.
Without the recordings it would have been just another case of domestic abuse without any proof but instead it was “he said, she said and her iPhone said.”
It is a 5 minutes and 58 seconds video that gives a glimpse of her life with Abhishek Gattani. The audio in the video makes it more disturbing when we start hearing the repeated strikes in the presence of their two-year-old daughter.
Gattani’s intent seems clear even before the hitting starts. His voice remains ominous, controlled and not raging at all.
In the beginning of the video, the two have been discussing a website which was getting far less clicks than before. Rastogi suggests that the problem might be a software bug.
“We are talking about a bug, what is a bug… NEHA… Rastogi?” he asks on the video. “You are a QA [quality assurance] person, right? This is amazing. I am having fun today actually. Let’s talk about what– is– a– bug?”
“Let’s say you—” she begins.
“No, no, no,” he says. “When did I say that’s a bug? We talked about bugs right? Is it getting very difficult for you to focus? You really do need help. You need me to take another step and come to you. You need help?”
“Let’s—you know what, here’s the thing, it’s all in your hand,” he continues.
“You don’t want to get beaten up?” he asks. “Then control yourself.”
He appears to instill fear in her and tells her not to cry or he will give her all the reasons to do so.
“If you didn’t want that police report and incarceration, you should have gotten yourself and your senses back to track,” he goes on.
He was referring to a domestic violence incident that took place on Nov 30, 2013 when Gattani assaulted his wife on the street outside their home. Luckily a postal worker saw this and reported it to police. The responding officer reported that when he had arrived, witnesses said Gattani had been “pushing and pulling [Rastogi] along the sidewalk while punching her with a closed fist in the side and back multiple times”. But Gattani told the officer that he was holding Rastogi’s hand when they were walking and denied that he ever became violent or physical.
Gattani was charged with felony assault which was later reduced to misdemeanour.
In the 5 minutes 58 seconds video, the following conversation follows:
“Am I not right? Yes or no?” Gattani can then be heard saying on the video. “Despite that incident you are still not able to control yourself. OK. You still aren’t—right? This shows me that you need good motivation to do that.”
“It’s my failure that I have not been able to provide that to you,” he says.
“What is a bug?” he asks. “Come on, b**ch! What is a bug?”
“A bug is when– a– you know when the– when something doesn’t behave as per intended.” she replies.
“No, no, no. I asked you how is that a bug?” he demands.
“No, no you b**ch,” he says. “I have a very very specific question, you please, you keep answering complicated questions OK.”
“So– I a– a– a– I am just asking what do you think is your understanding that a product manager would go ahead and do at this point,” she says.
“Abhishek, please don’t hit me more,” she says. “I– I am just trying to be more critical over here. I am just trying to question this– Please don’t do this, please don’t do this. Please don’t do this. Please don’t do this. Please don’t do this.”
He then poses a hypothetical: “OK, here is a link that seems to be landing to a page, which takes you to this content. Would you…”
But then comes the first thwak.
“… keep that link, or would you remove it? Tell me…”
Then comes a second thwak.
“… Keep that link or remove it?”
Rastogi continues crying.
“Remove it,” she says.
“So did you get your answer of what you would do?” he asks.
A third thwack can be heard.
“Your users come to the app, they login, right?” he asks.
“Yeah, no this is a bug I will act on,” she says.
She seems ready to say whatever he wants her to say. Two more thwacks come as he describes a scenario where the user is diverted from a desired page to a generic or empty page.
“What would you do?” he asks.
“I would fix it,” she says.
“You will fix it Na’?” he asks. “Is that a bug? Is it actionable?”
Then comes a seventh thwack.
“Is that something you will fix?” he demands. “Is that something you will operate on?
According to her, he is pulling her hair with both hands causing her to cry in immense pain.
There is an eighth thwack. He asks why she asked him about the glitch in the first place.
“You love being critical right?” he asks. “Because right now it is all about being critical? Yeah?”
There is a ninth thwak. She sobs.
“Yeah, you are right,” she says.
“How come I am right?” he inquires. “Why, why did it, why come this? Why does this this this thing take so—you spent an enormous number of time debating.”
Rastogi was later asked by a police officer if she thought of getting away from her husband when he assaulted her but she said that if she did anything like that, the assault would get worse.
By the time of that report, Rastogi had taken the video and other evidence she had gathered with her iPhone to police. Her 38-year-old husband was arrested and ended up pleading no contest. The device she helped refine seemed to have become an instrument of justice.
The top charge against Abhishek was reduced from felony assault to felony accessory with a misdemeanour of “offensive touching”.
Rastogi insists that she was not fine with it after learning that Gattani would likely not even serve half of the 30 days in jail and could have the felony expunged if he completed three years of probation.
The overall deal is so lenient and makes one question the criminal justice system.