His grandfather had lovingly given him his name, hoping that one day he would grow up into a ‘positive’ human being. Some 25 years later, the marine engineer from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand is despondent on being forced to bear the burden of his name.
Two years after passing out as a marine engineer from Tamil Nadu’s Noorul Islam University, Saddam Hussain says he has failed to find a job because of his namesake: the former Iraqi ruler executed in 2006. Saddam Hussein was a dictator blamed for atrocities on his subjects until toppled by the US in 2003.
“People are scared to hire me,” laments Jamshedpur’s Saddam. His job application has been rejected each of the 40-odd times he has appeared for interviews with multinational shipping companies. His batchmates around the world have secured employment, but Saddam remains unemployed despite ranking second in his batch of 2014.
For the initial six months, Saddam was unable to decipher why he was being rejected. “I then inquired with the HR departments of the companies and some of them told me my name was the problem,” he recounts. He was told that having a crew member with a name that arouses instant suspicion could be an operational nightmare.
A top executive of Delhi-based TeamLease Services, a leading recruitment consultant, agrees. “If the issue involves crossing the borders, then nothing can be done as border patrol and airport authorities are very process-driven and if there is a red flag, they will check out. If the person’s job involves frequent travel abroad, he might just keep getting stuck or the company has to pull him out of the sticky situation, making the hire cumbersome,” he points out.
“Even Shah Rukh Khan gets detained at US airports. What is this Saddam in comparision?” he asks.
Once it hit him that his name was the impediment, Saddam legally got his name changed into Sajid and procured all relevant documents, including passport, voter ID and driving licence, under the name.
But his woes did not end there.
Prospective employers ask for his educational certificates, but his university has refused to change the name until he got his Class 10 and 12 exam certificates changed first. He approached the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for a name change, but the authorities have not acted yet.
Driven to desperation, Saddam, now Sajid, moved the Jharkhand high court with a plea to direct the CBSE to change his name. But since unscrupulous people often abuse the system by frequently changing names, the court acted with caution. Last week, it set the date for a considered hearing on May 5.
Saddam remains fond of his grandfather, though he feels he is paying for his folly. As one by one his batchmates set sail after securing jobs, Saddam is left to spend sleepless nights. “I am an innocent victim of somebody else’s crimes,” he says.