Balaji Srinivasan’s distrust of authority began as early as first grade, when boys less cerebral than he was would beat him up at recess for reading a book. “Literally, like, ‘Oh, look at that nerd,’ and they’d go attack you.” That was in 1986, in Plainview, N.Y., an undistinguished Long Island hamlet where his parents, immigrants from South India, worked as physicians. “Being the only brown kid among hundreds of people, lots of kids would gang up on you and call you ‘ Gandhi, ’ and you could say, ‘It’s not an insult,’ and run, but they’d just chase you.”
Mr. Srinivasan is now 37 and an eye-catching innovator in the world of digital currency. “I learned that the first guy who comes at me, I need to hit him—Bam!—with the book, and just act crazy so the other folks don’t jump on you.” Later, at the principal’s office, the assailants would have “crocodile tears” about how the little Indian boy had started the fight. “Their parents knew the principal,” Mr. Srinivasan recalls. “He’d say, ‘Balaji, why did you attack young Jimmy and Jamie?’ So, I learned early on that you’ve got to stand up for yourself, that the fix is in. . . . The state is against you.”
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