I am an entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India. I run a strategic Brand Consulting Firm for the last 14 years. I have a robust circle of close friends & associates, am well travelled and well read.
I am a regular speaker at various forums of repute. I have coached several organization heads and manage their web reputation.
As an active member of the startup ecosystem in the country, I am also on mentor panel for various startup-focused organizations.
People describe me as strong, independent, empathetic, mature & balanced.
This Is My Story.
Last year, a common friend introduced me to a fellow entrepreneur who was writing a piece on startups for an international publication & needed someone to co- author it. My friend suggested that I should connect & see how it works out. Though that article didn’t happen, this entrepreneur, lets just call him XX, continued to be in touch.
In his next visit to Mumbai, XX made a surprise call & requested for a meeting. He said that we worked in a parallel industry and he would like to explore synergies. We spoke about several possibilities in this informal meeting. He also promised to introduce me to some of his large global clientele. He joked that he had been ‘stalking’ me on social media for years. I didn’t think much of that statement.
Over the next couple of months, I learned more about XX ‘s global business interests. He had offices in US, UK, Singapore and Dubai. He also had a senior team based out India. He had a formidable client list. I was impressed. He had a parallel business interest, which was growing rapidly. We discussed how my firm could help Brand it for next stage. In fact, he wanted someone from our team to run it operationally. Though this deal didn’t materialise either, our discussions were still stimulating & grew longer with time.
XX was well educated with a degree from a top-notch university of the world. He performed for a rock band in college & was well read. I enjoyed listening to space science, metaphysics, evolution, human behavior & more. He had taken a year off after college and traveled to places far & wide. This adventurous spirit intrigued me.
His observation skills were very sharp. We would often talk about common acquaintances on social media & he would tell me what he thought about them personally. Almost always, he was right. It was interesting as he wasn’t a close friend with any of these people. His childhood abuse & lack of parental love had turned him into a loner. I empathized as I have met few others with similar childhood traumas.
Conversations grew deeper, we shared more, spoke regularly. XX was also battling some family disturbance at the time. Added to that, his grandparent wasn’t keeping well. I tried to provide all emotional support I could. I lost my parents early in life. I missed my family every single day. I therefore encouraged him to be closer to his family & especially resolve issues with his father. He was distant from his dad on account of several deep set issues.
Somehow, these conflicts at his end brought us even closer. Soon after, he confessed his love to me. He broke down recollecting his earlier abusive relationships. He wanted something long term. Women he dated seemed to run at that thought. I asked that we let some time go by. However, it did feel right. He said we were soul mates & it felt just like that.
XX was just like me. Like a mirror reflection. He was also self-made, independent & strong. Here we were, together wanting to change the world, travel to new places, rescue animals, build an old age home. I was over the moon at finding a person who shared same values as mine.
He then suggested that I meet his parents. He was insistent that they know about me as I was anyways going to be a part of the family. I was secretly delighted. It was more than perfect. I couldn’t have gotten a stronger reaffirmation of his intent.
We met his family over lunch. His parents came across as decent people. They instantly liked me. From thereon, they regularly exchanged messages & emails, spoke with me almost everyday. Together, we managed to make each other laugh & be happy. In fact, when his parents expressed their wish to spend new years with me in Mumbai, I was at my happiest. Bringing in the New Year with the new family was great. I also spent a couple of weeks at his parents’ house on their invitation. We took hundreds of pictures & videos together. We watched movies, went out for drives, laughed & had a great time. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. We were a small little happy family that loved me to bits.
I introduced him to my close friends who are like family. He was an absolute charmer. Everyone thought he was committed to building a life together with me. It boosted my confidence in the person I was with. I had nothing but thankfulness for all the good things he brought with him.
And Then The Games Began.
While it was a dream tale on one end, there started a strange pattern of pathological lying & cheating on other. This was very confusing for me.
I often caught him stalking (specifically) separated/divorced, middle aged single women on social media. He himself showed me his indecent messages a couple of times. I was appalled. I wondered why he wanted to prove himself untrustworthy. Why would someone who introduces you to their parents, actually try hard to prove that they are cheaters? I couldn’t find a logical explanation for the same.
One day he said that he was going to ‘smoke up weed’ with another woman & switched his phone off for rest of the evening. It drove me nuts not knowing where he was or whom he was with. Not one to accept such irresponsible behavior I decided to call things off. Before I knew it, he flew down to Mumbai by the first available flight next morning. He apologized for his behavior, promising that it won’t repeat.
Once he returned to his city, he sent me dozens of messages a day telling me that I was family, how I had changed his life, he had never felt real love before and that I was different. It inspired some confidence in me that he might have realized his earlier mistakes. He called at frequent intervals to check what I was doing, where I was, whether I had eaten, how I slept.
I wish I knew at that moment that this is called “love-bombing” where you overwhelm the person with insane amount of attention so that its impossible to see through it.
I also didn’t know that XX had spent a lot of time studying my life minutely. He was serious about ‘stalking’ me on social media! He ‘mirrored’ me perfectly and offered me exactly what I wanted to hear: family, world travel, giving back to society, love for animals. It gave me a tremendous sense of false security.
Introduction to family was a winning card in his credibility building. Though I was independent, strong & mature; deep down I missed my parents. He tapped that vulnerability flawlessly by putting forth his parents.
He evoked an emotion in me, which I thought I was incapable of having- insecurity. There was always an ex lover, a lonely married woman or a female colleague who was seemingly chasing him. It sent me into a fury of emotions. I feared losing my person, detested the other woman and was always fighting for a place in his life. This technique of ‘triangulation’ wrecked my physical and mental health.
When I confronted him, I was dealt with rage & emotional abuse. In fact, he pretty much convinced me that it was my controlling nature or how he didn’t want to hurt me so he lied. There was no apology or regret ever.
I wish I had questioned myself at that time if I always found myself insecure about my partner, playing detective, was it really worth it?
Its like he was a different person altogether. I missed the doting, loving, intelligent, caring man I had met.
Each time I wanted to call off this abusive relationship, his master acting skills came to rescue. He wept like a child & told stories of how he might have cancer, how his mother is mentally unstable or his father doesn’t love him. It would be tragic enough for me to forgive him.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that every single thing he told me during that time was a lie. It was an intricately woven web of lies, which I was caught up in. Much later did I discover that 100% of stories around: educational background, finances, international offices, ex girlfriends, EVERYTHING was a lie. He even made up false personas of his colleagues, family who don’t actually exist.
He sent me emails from different ids to make believe this existence. He made fake calls pretending to have long engaging conversations with these supposed non-existing people. I was always under the impression that he has a busy, blooming business.
Each time I suspected something amiss, there was a perfectly plausible explanation. I remained suspicious but involved as it was interspersed with few happy moments like his parents visit to Mumbai to spend the New Years with me. It would give hope that may be the parents would be able to counsel him. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth, as time would reveal.
He slowly began to isolate me from my friends. He questioned every successful friend I had & hated them. He detested my social media presence. He said that I needed to learn from him how to lead a quiet life. Pretty ironical now that I think of it since all his victims were picked up from social media sites alone. Each time a friend called, he would find a way to make me feel miserable or simply give me the silent treatment for hours. I stopped taking my friends’ calls in his presence to simply avoid arguments. I wanted peace of mind.
He moved to Mumbai for a couple of months under the pretence that he wanted to eventually shift base to be closer to me. In reality, he was keeping a close watch on me & made every effort to break me emotionally. Shouting & screaming, including physical aggression became a regular feature. He was nasty even in front of other people. He would abuse, misbehave but be all-tearful as soon as he suspected that I was on the verge of walking out.
One such incident where he abused me in the presence of a friend’s staff was too much for me to handle. I told him to walk away. He quickly grabbed the phone & told his father about the situation at hand. Surprisingly, the father seemed pretty casual & told him not to repeat it. This raised a red flag for me. I made a mental note about the incident but let it go momentarily as he cried himself to death about how sorry he was.
We traveled to a couple of tourist destinations in the country. He would rarely ever pay any bills at that time. Either he didn’t want to use his credit card because his CA would question him or he didn’t have enough cash. He expected me to host him even during his stay in Mumbai. If he ever did end up paying, he would make sure I paid back 2x elsewhere. He justified his behavior as a ‘single child’ syndrome where he didn’t know how to share.
One of the most excruciating experiences of his behavior was ‘gaslighting’.
He would completely deny his behavior or an abusive incident. Like it never happened. His sly confidence & outrageous lies made me doubt my own memory. I was jittery, unhappy, constantly keeping unwell & confused. He would twist reality to make it look like I am making up stories or that my memory is twisted.
For example: yes, I was texting this other woman, I am really sorry. But, why are you so insecure? You should know I wont actually do anything. You are always making me apologize, I feel controlled. She’s in my past; I was only flirting in a healthy manner. No, I never did that. You remember wrong. I never said so. Do you not want me to have any female friends?
Go over the above paragraph once more and see if it makes any sense at all. Combined with rage, deflection, lies and disrespect, it totally wrecked me. Each time my gut was rattled, he confused me into trusting him even more. My gut was drowned in this web of lies.
His primary tool was love & fear. He’d let go & then pull back. Like flying a kite. He would fly into rage and call me names, and just when I would want to call it off, make a dinner and apologize looking straight into my eyes. Ofcourse he would promise to never repeat that behavior. And ofcourse, it happened over and over again.
I never really got to meet any of his close friend/ colleagues. He said he was a loner and had only two good friends far away from his current location. When I asked about associates in the ecosystem, he got terribly angry, accusing me of being very controlling. He would remind me of his childhood abuse and justify that’s why he didn’t keep friends. In the entire year of knowing him, I only met one couple friend of his. And they didn’t look like close friends who hang out together too often.
“He Is A Sociopath”.
Words that changed my life. For the better.
I was confused, hurt, grief struck & weak. I never wanted to share horrors of my relationship with anyone. I wasn’t even sure of what I was going through. But one day, I just couldn’t take it any more. I felt I was going to have a break down. That’s when I happened to share my story with a friend. At the time of conversation, I wasn’t aware that sociopathy was a subject my friend had studied for years. He has helped many victims fight this battle. He listened to me patiently for a while & then said: He is a sociopath. He is mentally dysfunctional. Stop all communication with him right now. I was baffled. Even as he said what he did, I was unable to process that statement. It couldn’t possibly have been true. It doesn’t really happen in real life. And don’t such people look life Hannibal?
I was terribly wrong. On all fronts.
I began reading on the subject. I went to practicing professionals- psychiatrists & therapists to understand things scientifically. As I began uncovering the lies, it was like peeling an onion. At the end of it, there remained nothing.
I was distraught. He had no overseas office, no colleagues/co founders in India or abroad, no degree in the subject he claimed, no rock band performances to name, nothing. Just nothing.
Every single thing he spoke was a lie. Meant to manipulate and control.
And no, sociopaths don’t look odd. They look just like you and me. They are dressed in clean clothes; appear to have good hygiene habits. They make themselves invisible in a crowd. Though they are attention seekers, they are wary of being in limelight.
He didn’t have a great circle of friends/associates because sociopaths can’t nurture any relationships. Most of his (supposed) close friends were therefore superficial or distant.
I learned that sociopaths are parasites. They love to feed on you financially, socially, emotionally and psychologically. That’s exactly what XX did.
Like a typical sociopath, he sought pleasure in seeing a strong, successful individual believe ridiculous stories. It gave him sadistic pleasure.
What really happened about the mother & father? Well, I understood that they were very much part of this play right from the start. Whether sociopathy runs in that family or they are manipulated too, I do not know. But, they were certainly a part of the game plan. You see, only son & all of that. They would probably forgive him of murder.
You would ask, how is that an intelligent, successful strong, happy person like me becomes a victim? Why didn’t I walk out quite early on? I should have seen this through at the very first time.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
It’s only the intelligent, seemingly successful, empathic and strong people who are most attractive to a sociopath. It’s the challenge and conquest that gives them validation for their existence.
Empathic people like me are prone to gaslighting & forgiving liars more easily. Sociopaths know these vulnerabilities. They are master mind readers. Their self worth feeds on the fact that they have destroyed intelligent, stable people.
Emotional abuse changes our hardwiring. Mind processes information differently. Prolonged abuse has been known to drive people to insanity or even suicide. When people (like me) who have a conscience & who have been well brought, are abused- our mind is totally confused. We don’t really know what is going on or how the other person is so reckless. We have never experienced such heartlessness/ manipulation before
We forgive the first few instances out of empathy. Once it forms a pattern, it becomes impossible for our brain to distinguish logical triggers. .
Its taken me time to accept, understand, study & now speak about this subject.
In many parts of the world, sociopaths are categorized as “disabled” since a part of their brain which triggers several emotions integral to social living, is not functional. Sociopaths are people who have antisocial personality disorder and demonstrate a pattern of disregard that is pervasive, particularly in terms of the feelings and rights of others. They are characterized by lack of conscience, empathy, fear, regret/remorse & love.’
Very little is being written about it even today. Whereas, 4% of the general population is suspected to be sociopaths. Why aren’t more people talking of it? May be because its really difficult to spot a sociopath & even tougher to explain their behavior.
Despite being a well-read person, I wasn’t aware of this mental disorder. None of us can be master of all subjects.
So, why am I doing this now? Why not just move on with my life, repair the damage? Because, I owe it to my conscience to speak about it. I am not an expert on mental disorders. I am just another person like you, working hard & living a disciplined life. I hope that my experience will not only help but also inspire a few others to share their stories. It takes courage to share trauma. My purpose of writing this piece is also to help anyone reading it in identifying if they are in a dysfunctional relationship.
Sociopaths are dangerous. They are known to destroy careers and drive people to insanity or even kill.
Today, I recognize that I am hurt but not broken. I fought & reclaimed my life. I am a winner not a survivor. I choose to overcome the trauma instead of wallowing in self-pity. I have the guts to share my experience.
Hoping that more people talk about mental disorders in our country. And that more people also find it in them to speak of their own experiences.
Lastly, please know that not everyone is out to get you. World is full of nice people who keep our faith in goodness alive. Like you and like me.
Wishing you luck.