Monday, 17 December 2012


“You have so much knowledge about the work we do. No one can take your place here!”

“Sweetheart, you are one of the most wonderful people I have ever met in my life. I can never live without you!”

“You are one of the main pillars in the team. We cannot survive without you!”

“Sachin is irreplaceable in Indian cricket. He cannot be dropped from the side”

At some point or the other in our life, most of us have been at the receiving end of one or many of these statements. What would these lines make us feel? Do we feel proud that we have been able to establish so much credibility in things we do? Do we feel good that someone has placed so much trust in us and cannot do without us in their personal or professional lives? Do we feel scared that we might not be able to live up to these expectations? Do we feel so complacent that we have now become irreplaceable and hence can start taking things for granted? It could be one or many of these or even more, but one thing is for sure – it feels good to hear such statements whenever they come by (except the fourth one of course!). It also set me thinking about some of the bigger things that come with these statements – the themes and the philosophy associated with them!

The year gone by has been very pivotal for me. It began with so many things to look forward to – culmination of a professional course, a new job, moving to a new place (not city of course), happy times with family and closed ones, wedding ceremonies to look forward to and all that. Lots of things have turned the way I expected and have made me really happy. Some things have not gone the way as expected or have been extremely disappointing by the manner in which they turned out – but there were nice experiences and learnings I could take from them. At the end of the year, as I sit back and review all that happened, there seems to be one theme which I can associate to the year. If 2010 revolved around change management and 2011 revolved around skill management, then the main theme of 2012 seemed to be replaceability. Not only in my life, but even when i look at the events of the year, there seems to be the overwhelming theme of replaceability associated with it.

The year started with rumors, gossips and folklore about the world ending. What if the world really ended this year? How would all the damage start? Would it just go off on one day and replaced by zilch the next day? Or would it come slowly – one calamity after the other? Would we be replaced by some better people or life forms after that? Would it all start over again? After the kali yuga ends, shouldn’t the cycle start all over again with satya, tretaa, dwapara and kali lined up in cyclic order? All these made of interesting conversations and movie scripts. But I guess, we do not have much control on how things pan out at that level and as commoners, all we could do about these rumors is to wait and see how it unfolds. And of course, make plans for the Christmas and the new-year vacations :)

When we graduated from engineering, the most happening social networking site was orkut. If you dint have an orkut account or know what leaving a scrap or writing a testimonial meant, you would not have qualified to be called an engineer. And then there was a photo sharing site called flickr, where people shared photos in high resolution. Rediffmail was the mail account people wanted because it provided 1 GB of storage. MSN was the site that people opened for news/gossips. Yahoo messenger was used for chats and blogger was the site to post events and articles.... Today, all these have replaced by just two big names – fb and twitter! Personally as well, the number of posts on maama’s adda have also taken a beating because facebook enables microblogging and instant sharing which allows me to share easily and enables a wider reach. But that does not mean facebook itself can be complacent that it is irreplaceable. Tomorrow, something else might put facebook totally out of business and we dont even know what it is today!

Same is the case with gadgets. It is hard to believe that just a decade ago, we used to have so many different handy gadgets to make our life easy - a watch to look at the time, an alarm clock to wake us up in the morning, a calendar to plan holidays, a diary to write down contact addresses and phone numbers, a calculator to do quick 2+2 calculations, video games to play tetris, and what not. I don't even have to tell you the one device which has replaced all of these today. And with so many millions of transistors being added to the microchip every month, we dont know how many more gadgets this one ubiquotous thing will replace eventually!

After this, there was the talk on replacing the almighty Himself. Didn’t they build a huge hadron collider or something to create a replacement for GOD? I also heard that there was indeed some breakthroughs in their research in the form a Higgs Boson particle. Maybe they thought that since the world is ending anyway, it was necessary to have an alternate GOD ready to create a backup for the world so that this new god could create a new world and the people who created GOD could then claim copyright of all the thing that ever existed in the world! Thank God (old), I have written this post before their new God has taken control :) :)

Although the above paragraphs were written with pun in mind, I feel they somehow just reinforce the theme of replaceability which I have experienced for most part of the year. It just goes on to show that even though we do fear changes, we are always anticipating and preparing for them. Maybe it is the evolutionary instinct which makes us do so. If you are not able to adapt to changes, you will not survive. So, it is good to have an alternate plan ready. Students plan to work while at college. Employees plan to study while at work. Management plans for attrition when team seems to be good. Girls and boys in committed relationships plan for a backup in case things do not work out. Workers plan for retirement even while they are at prime earning age. People plan for replacements to their mobile phones, cars, etc all the time. ‘Exchange offers’ are ubiquitous these days. In fact, there are a lot of companies, especially the insurance and storage service providers which are doing business today only because people anticipate change and prepare for alternate options.

The gist of management theory is about managing risk and having alternate plans to achieve targets. In the industry, a substantial amount of money is invested in having backup servers in place so that they can handle the load in case the primary servers go off. Alternate resources, both human and machines, are always considered good to have to make sure there are no hindrances to plans. In infrastructure, service routes and detours while building roads is a primary requirement. All the new buildings designed will have alternate entry/exit paths for contingencies. New phones always come with an offer which promises an additional alternate storage space on the cloud just in case of crashes/thefts. In short, backups and alternates have become so much ingrained in lives that there is no way you cannot do without having them.

There is a very important human aspect which comes into play when we talk of backups. While machines and non-living entities are so cold and emotionless to all these ‘main’/’backup’ nomenclature, it becomes an entirely different case when dealing with people. The end-user of gmail would not even know if his mailbox got switched from a main server to a backup server on the google’s server farm. But if his manager at office was replaced by a new person, things would get so different. People have feelings and become really sensitive to changes around them. How would someone feel if the very person he was training in office for a certain skill replaced him and put him out of the job? How would workers in an industry feel if one fine day, a machine replaced them and they were asked to retire? How would it feel if someone who was a best friend till not so long ago starts ignoring you/acts very indifferent when you are around? How would you feel if your beloved for years started going out with someone who was just a friend and said that things between you two dint seem to work out anymore? These are really tough moments. Everyone would have dealt with such moments at some point or other. Some chose to take it in their stride and move on. Some might seek comfort in other temporary pleasures like alcohol/drugs/ bounce back relationships, etc. But, in some extreme cases, people get so depressed and never come back from it. It is really a tough job with replacements and backups when humans are involved, and a lot of high paying jobs today require you to possess the skill of effective communication while handling such tough situations.

So, is there a best way to replace people? Can we handle replacements when people are involved effectively at all? Well, it turns out that there are good options there as well. It is not considered fair when people are dumped unceremoniously. The onus lies in making the communication so effective that the other person feels so valued even when being replaced. Some sort of a golden handshake where everyone walks out from the deal winning. The voluntary retirement scheme in few organizations was one such example. The workers who wanted to be replaced were given handsome payouts such that they felt rewarded for their efforts. The organizations felt happy because they got rid of extra manpower and could now invest the money into buying new age machines or younger workforce. It was a win win situation for all. Even relationships lasting years together could end amicably sometimes. If one of them always wanted money/career and the other wanted care and attention, and if they managed to find it, people could part ways in a manner where there would be no hard feelings. There is this new term being used in the industry termed as ‘positive attrition’ where employees and the employers end terms on a good note. Employees go off to study in reputed institutes while employers get their brand built in such institutes thus creating a win-win situation. All in all, in any deal where the people are treated with respect and feel valued and cared, replacement becomes easy.

On the personal front, this year has been one of continuous change. We moved to a rented place for the first time in life because our old house had to be replaced by a new one. I have stayed in atleast 3-4 rented places in this year alone and the experiences have been a mixed bag – one of them really bitter, one totally awesome and others somewhere in between. Then, there have been experiences at work place where targets and priorities get replaced by new ones so dynamically that adapting to them becomes a challenge. As always, new people have come into life replacing some of the old and very special ones. There have been some people who were just acquaintances or casually walked into my life, but I have realized that they are as important to me as anyone else right now. The important replacement was that of goals. For almost six to seven years now, there was a specific purpose and goal which I pursued. And when that fell apart, lots of things changed. I wandered aimlessly for few days before it struck me that it was all part of some bigger picture which would become clear in a few days. And the most important realization that has dawned upon me is that no matter what happens, certain things or relationships in life are irreplaceable. The memories/lessons which people give are irreplaceable. One main thing that cannot be replaced is the ideology and the principles which we stand for. It is one thing which defines our character and identity and we cannot afford to lose it. I now know the people who are the most valuable in my life. They were always there when I needed them, are with me now, and will hopefully continue to be so. It makes absolute sense to hold on to them no matter what happens. I feel really happy when I know that there are so many of such close people in my life. Through this year-end post, I just want to thank (you) all for always being there!

At the brink of yet another year being replaced, there is one thing which we must all realize. It is the fact that change is the only constant in life and no matter how bad the changes seem at first, things will always turn out good in the end! There will always be experiences from which we can learn from. The replacements which come might not be welcomed at first, but eventually we will realize that there was a reason that the old one had to go and make way for the new – be it the old home, old worker, old machine, or even Sachin/Dravid/Vajapayee. Even if the world did end sometime soon, it would be only because it had gotten so bad that a better world was needed to replace it. As far as possible, try not to compare the old and new because each one had a specific purpose. Drawing parallels and lamenting about past would only make us weaker. So, let us continue to celebrate the journey of changes in life and learnings it gives us. Wishing you all a very happy new year 2013!