personal, travel

Scraped Knees

A clumsy, hard fall on the rough hotel room floor left me with scraped knees and a short but distinctive spell of embarrassment. A few days later when the raspberry scab was fully formed it triggered a flurry of memories from my childhood. Scraped knees are a part of every kid’s childhood and it all came rushing.

Photo by Marcelo Moreira from Pexels

Kids partake in risky activities all the time and I was no different. Playing on uneven ground, running from strays, jumping over fences, climbing walls, hiding in the bushes and countless other escapades. That’s a lot of scraped knees.

Scraped knees become a distant memory after you enter adulthood. This last incident happened in a foreign country, far away from home, in a new environment. I’ve been in the US for only 3 months. The similarities between trying out new things as a kid risking scraped knees and adjusting to new ways of living by making a fool of yourself repeatedly became acute after this minor mishap. 

During the time I was planning the trip, I was told by colleagues and friends how difficult it was for them to adjust in a different country. All of them cited the inability to develop/maintain new relationships and fundamental differences in ways of living as barriers to adjustment. 

I don’t feel like this, so far. What explains this? An above-average sense of familiarity with the culture, my below-average need for people and relationships, the presence of a handful of acquaintances in every city I’ve been to (thanks to Twitter) and the transient nature of this gestation period where everyday life is defined by a lack of routine rather than a fixed set of rituals are all good candidates. These can explain some of it but here’s the kicker – the courage to ask and being open to experimentation and failure.

When I reflect on the past three months, I now realize why many people find the transition difficult. Adjusting to a completely new set of rules – both spoken and unspoken is hard work. It also comes with the risk of being outed as an outsider or feeling embarrassed at each juncture. 

I’ve struggled with the simplest of tasks – how to engage with strangers, where to find napkins at a restaurant, how to order a meaningful, tasty salad and not 10 random things mixed together, how to hold a glass of wine, hell, how to pronounce their names? Even basic etiquette relating to tipping, holding the door, greeting people and walking on the street needs learning. Interfacing with a new environment brings out the inner child in you and kids are excellent at learning via mimicry. This is a humbling experience in adulthood. Scraped knees and bruised egos take longer to heal. 

People moving to new cultures fall broadly into two categories – ones who stay among themselves and look for their communities and those who engage meaningfully with reality on a daily basis, trying to integrate in an accelerated manner. It largely comes down to whether or not you want to change and more importantly, if your being is amenable to said changes.

There is no correct answer here but the latter can be fun if you stop taking yourself too seriously. It’s okay to fall sometimes.

Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels

An interesting sidetrack here is that of folkways (a unit of social analysis or “ways of being”) on Ribbonfarm titled The Missing Folkways of Globalization. It talks about globalization and its effect on the social landscape, describing how people adapt or adopt in new environments.

reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 52


  1. Neuralink and the future of knowledge work – Ness Labs
    Speculation on how developments in Neuralink would affect work. 

  2. Epistemic Learned Helplessness – Slate Star Codex
    Do you feel frustrated when you provide someone with a logical argument but they refuse to accept the conclusion? That’s probably a good thing.

  3. Facebook, Libra, and the Long Game – Stratechery
    Ben Thompson on why Libra is a winning move from Facebook.

  4. The Tragedy of Wiio’s Law – Venkatesh Rao
    Wiio’s Law: communication usually fails, except by accident. 
  5. Shopify and the Power of Platforms – Stratechery
    Why platforms (Shopify) and aggregators (Amazon) are competitors and Walmart is losing. 

  6. Before ‘Old Town Road,’ Lil Nas X Was a Tweetdecker – NYMag
    How Lil Nas X memed his way to the top. 

  7. Fair but not so Lovely: India’s obsession with skin whitening – Neha Dixit
    A great essay on India’s unhealthy obsession with skin color and its underlying sociological issues.
  8. Conductor Social Networks – Cody Brown
    The unbundling of media platforms and rise of people centric social networks. 
  9. Let Christopher Alexander design your life – Alexandra Lange
    This is a superb review of the book A Pattern Language and its application in daily life.
  10. Notes from Peter Thiel’s speech at the National Conservatism conference on July 14, 2019 – Bonnie Kavoussi
    This is a great highlight reel of Peter Thiel’s speech. Listen to his interview on Eric Weinstein as well to complement this article.
reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 51


  1. Fire in the Dark Forest – Foci
    This is good commentary on the Dark Forest theory of the internet article that made the rounds recently.

  2. The present and future of work in America – McKinsey Global Institute
    A follow-up on the McKinsey report on Automation and AI and how it will affect the future of work.

  3. How I practice at what I do – Tyler Cowen
    Insight into how Tyler gets in the reps each day.

  4. Book Review of Impro by Keith Johnstone – Jessica
    This is an excellent book review of Impro, a book that’s been on my to-read pile for a long time.  

  5. Old Town Road: The Best Entertainment Case Study of 2019 – Anthony McGuire
    This is a great breakdown of the phenomenon that is Old Town Road. Lil Nas X has some serious social media chops on top of all his skill as a musician. 


reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 50


    Exciting new startup working on non-invasive neural interfaces. 

  2. How India’s largest premium streaming platform turns viewers into subscribers – What’s New in Publishing
    Hotstar is still the underrated video platform in India. 

  3. The Inevitable Same-ification of the Internet – Matthew Ström
    On why consumer startups eventually converge to the same design.

  4. Responsive Roadmaps – Matthew Ström
    Thinking in dynamics and using dynamic roadmaps because the map is not the territory. 

  5. Optimize for learning – Matthew Ström
    Saying I don’t know and optimizing for learning.

  6. How to take your team’s creative pulse – Matthew Ström
    This is a great post on how to align and resolve creative differences in a team setting.

  7. Inclusive design on the Tokyo subway – Matthew Ström
    What inclusive design looks like IRL. 
  8. How To Have More Inclusive Meetings – Matthew Ström
    Conducting inclusive meetings is a crucial skill to have. 
  9. Quinian Bootstrapping – Psychology Stackexchange
    The basic idea of Quinian Boostrapping is that you start off not understanding a concept, but use a symbolic placeholder for it, and then fill in the details over time. For example, right now you don’t understand Quinian Bootstrapping but you do have the placeholder term “Quinian Bootstrapping” that you can hold in your mind and relate to other things you know and learn. Over time, your placeholder is replaced with the actual concept.