More than 10 years after being executed, Saddam Hussein remains a huge presence in the life of one man.
The marine engineer in India does not blame his grandfather for giving him the Iraqi dictator’s name 25 years ago.
But after being refused a job some 40-odd times, he has concluded employers are loath to hire him – even if his name is marginally different – spelt Hussain, not Hussein.
So he went to court to become Sajid. But the wheels of bureaucracy are turning slowly – and so is his search for a job.
It may never have opened many doors in India – and has raised eyebrows and grins elsewhere – but one thing was guaranteed: a name like Saddam Hussain was not likely to pass unnoticed.
Two years after graduating from Tamil Nadu’s Noorul Islam University, the man from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand is feeling the strain.
He did well at college, and his classmates have already found jobs, but shipping companies turn him away.
“People are scared to hire me,” Saddam-turned-Sajid is quoted by Hindustan Times as saying.
He says they fear complications from an encounter with immigration officials across international borders.
Saddam thought he might easily get around this obstacle, by getting a new passport, driving licence and more.
But his job applications are still not proceeding smoothly as he cannot provide proof, under his new name, that he went to school – and this is proving to be a time-consuming exercise.
Another court hearing beckons on 5 May, this time to force authorities to change the name on his secondary school certificates, after which his graduation papers will need amending.
Sajid is not alone in his plight – but he may feel more aggrieved than the numerous Saddam Husseins of Iraq, who feel cursed with a name that was originally given in tribute to a leader whose legacy is one of a brutal dictator.
Being Saddam in Iraq
One Saddam, a journalist working in Ramadi, a Sunni city in the desert province of Anbar, said his father was fired from his government job because he could not convince his superiors he was not a member of the dictator’s Ba’ath party.
He had named his son Saddam, after all – what greater allegiance could he have shown to the ousted president, they argued.
Others had more terrifying stories – one said he was captured by a Shia militia, set down on his knees and had the barrel of a gun placed against the back of his head. Somehow, thanks to sheer luck, the weapon jammed, and the militia eventually released him.
One friend told me how, as a Kurdish schoolchild in Baghdad, he had known a fellow classmate named Saddam Hussein.
While playing football with the boy, they would often shout at him: “It is not only us who hate you, the entire country hates you.”