Bikram Choudhury’s wife took the witness stand and her testimony may surprise you. Or maybe not. Rajashree Choudhury, who, you may remember, just filed for divorce from her husband and business partner of 31 years, defended the notoriously outspoken and unapologetic Bikram Yoga founder Wednesday telling the court that his habit of berating students, trainees, and employees is all part of a performance that everyone has come to understand is the Bikram Choudhury show.
Essentially, he’s a clown and all his derogatory comments and calling women “bitches” are simply part of his act, she says.
“He’s a comedian, he says many things,” Rajashree Choudhury told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury Wednesday while on the stand for one of several lawsuits her husband is currently facing. (That’s six.)
This particular suit involves Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, former Head of Legal and International Affairs for Choudhury between 2011 and 2013 who claims she was “abruptly and unlawfully terminated,” and that she had faced years of sexual harassment and “severe, ongoing, pervasive and offensive conduct” by Mr. Choudhury during her employment.
Jafa-Bodden, a native Indian, obtained her law degree in the UK and practices international law. The defense maintains that Jafa-Bodden was fired because she didn’t tell them she was not licensed to practice law in California.
Several of the disturbing claims from the suit filed in July 2013 by Jafa-Bodden against Choudhury and his Yoga College of India include:
- Bikram Choudhury repeatedly referring to women, including female employees and others as “bitches,” “fucking bitches,” “fat bitches” and “stupid bitches;”
- Bikram Choudhury repeatedly made offensive and vulgar sexual gestures including placing his fingers in a circle and inserting the fingers of his other hand into them, simulating intercourse; licking his fingers, sticking his fingers in the air and licking them, simulating oral sex;
- Bikram Choudhury repeatedly made disparaging remarks about single mothers, including myself, and stated to a co-worker “make sure we don’t hire single women with kids in the future;”
- Bikram Choudhury created a hyper-sexualized, offensive and degrading environment for women by, among other things, demanding that female staffers brush his hair and give him massages. Plaintiff was often required to conduct business meetings with Bikram Choudhury while he was receiving such massages. Plaintiff was on a number of occasions required to meet Bikram Choudhury in his hotel room typically at night. During one such meeting, Bikram Choudhury climbed into bed, and patted the bedspread next to him (indicating to Plaintiff to come and sit/lie down next to him in the bed). Plaintiff moved away from Choudhury and the bed and went and sat at a desk to conduct a telephone conference.
According to Bikram’s wife Rajashree, what her husband does and says is just his way, and people love him for it. “Everybody knows how he speaks…people clap when he speaks like that,” she said on Wednesday.
Plus, he’s the boss.
“Your husband does what he wants to do, right?,” Jafa-Bodden’s attorney Mark Quigley asked Rajashree Choudhury.
“Definitely he’s the boss in his business, he makes the rules, yes,” replied Rajashree (who, it’s worth noting, is vice president of Bikram’s Yoga College of India, but you wouldn’t know it by her website or facebook page).
Also called to the stand Wednesday was Sharon Clerkin, a former Bikram employee who filed her own lawsuit against Choudhury and Bikram Yoga this past November claiming “wrongful termination” – that she was fired because she was pregnant and because she had complained about the way the teacher training recruitment was being handled.
Clerkin testified that, “It’s his [Bikram's] vocabulary,” to call American women “white trash” and bitches. She also stated that Choudhury once told a large group of people that he “should rape more girls, it’s good business.”
Clerkin, a former teacher training recruiter, said that Rajashree Choudhury had wanted to ban trainees under 18 years old because of frequent complaints made by young women regarding the alleged treatment they received from Bikram.
Clerkin also said that Rajashree wanted her name scrubbed “off everything” because she didn’t want to be included or held liable for the slew of lawsuits filed against her husband and their Yoga College of India, of which, again, she is vice president.
Suddenly, divorce seems to make a lot more sense. It will all come out in the wash.
Further reading: How Bikram Choudhury’s divorce is tearing the yoga world apart