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Is your address important when you are applying for a job?

The year 1998.

When I came down to urban life after almost one and a half years of travels in the depths of Himalayas, I’d become a nervous wreck for some reason. I had problems crossing roads, talking to people, eating etc. I would spend most of my time in one corner of the room where I was living in Delhi.

When you are travelling endlessly in remote parts of the country, struggling with 1st degree of frostbite, without monies and family to fall back on, it’s called wandering. Else, one can fancifully call it exploring life.

So while wondering, when you have no fixed place to eat or sleep and you hardly get to take a bath, it’s not experimenting with life but searching for modes to survive.

The first thing I did when I came to Delhi from the mountains was to shave off my hair with partial dreadlocks. Actually, I had to shave off the hair from all parts of my body as it had lice due to lack of care.

First 6 months, I survived with help from people. People I never knew. My mother, who too had walked out of the comforts of life and family to find me, nursed me back to life and by this time, my hair too had begun to reappear.

With some money that I had borrowed, I bought an used trouser, two used shirts, one tie and a blazer from opposite the Red Fort. With the remaining seventy bucks, I bought a used pair of shoes from Sangam Vihar.

I needed money to survive. I needed a job. And I was very clear in my mind that I’ll not take up any job in the world of shipping. I needed to be free. My 11 years of frontline international maritime experience had ended with an 11-page resignation letter on the letterhead of my band! This one is hilarious but shall share some other time.

With little money that I could gather from teaching the kids of the neighbourhood, I began buying dailies with advertisements for jobs. That would be TOI, HT and even Khaleej Times.

Since I was living right next to upmarket and posh Sainik Farms, I would write ‘J.J. Colony, Next to Sainik Farms, Khanpur, New Delhi’ as my address. With my 11 years of experience working with large maritime companies, I was not too bothered about getting calls for interviews. I knew someone will call me for one.

I began applying for Retail Store Manager, Credit Card Sales Manager, Event Manager and jobs like that. But weeks went by and months passed. I would never get a reply back, forget about interviews.

One day, I saw an advertisement by a leading daily in India looking for workshop facilitators for schools as a part of their educational programme. I immediately saw an opportunity and applied as a facilitator for workshops on Western Music. It’s another thing that I’d no clue about workshops or facilitation.

I was very sure that I’ll be called for this interview as I already had nearly 2 decades of experience in music. But this time too, there was a cold silence.

Confused, I was having a drink with a student’s father. He used to supply bricks to civil contractors and ran a Banta shop (locally made soda used for fresh lime) and seemed more informed than the rest of the neighbourhood to solve my problem.

When I told him that I was not getting a single response and was finding it difficult to survive, he asked me to give him a copy of my resume for the job of canteen manager in a government office.

So, I ran and came back with a copy of my resume. Down with his 7th Patiala peg, he took out his glasses, went underneath a street lamp and began to read my resume loudly. Before I could find it offensive, he began laughing like mad.

More I tried to ask what was so hilarious in my situation, he’d go on laughing much to my irritation.

After having settled and having poured his 8th Patiala, he explained it to me.

“You think you’ll get a job with your address as J.J. Colony?”, he asked.

“What wrong with that ?”, I asked.

“Hello Sirji, what does J.J. Colony stand for?”, he smiled.

“Why? Jawahar Jyoti Colony”, I said.

He began to laugh till I lost my cool.

“What the fuck do you think you are doing? I am rogered and looking for a job to survive and you are laughing at my situation?”, I was angry.

“Bhai Sahab, who told you J.J. stands for Jawahar Jyoti? J.J. stands for Juggi Jhopdi !!” and he poured water and some soda into his whiskey which he got from his mobile ‘Banta ’ shop.

I recalled how the house owner’s son, where I was living at 700 bucks rent per month, had a mischievous smile on his face when I had asked him what J.J. stood for.

“Jawahar Jyoti”, he had smiled.

Suddenly, the whiskey in my body turned into water. The reason I was not getting a call for an interview was that I was living in a slum and my address was detrimental to getting a ‘respectable’ job!

The larger area where the slum existed was also known as Dr Ambedkar Nagar. So I changed my address to ‘Dr. Ambedkar Nagar, Next to Sainik Farms, Khanpur, New Delhi’.

I resent my application to the daily with my new address and within a week I was called for an interview. After nearly a year of doing workshops in schools for the newspaper, once during a workshop for the team who handled the school division, I told them how just a tweak of address changed the perspective of HR and got me the job!

While they stood embarrassed, I realised that I had entered a time in my life where self-branding, positioning, what you wear and where you live were more important than what you could do!

This effect lasted in me for a long time when I would go to MBK Mall in Bangkok and buy fake branded goods to maintain my ‘positioning’ till I could actually afford some.

But by the time I could afford high-end branded goods, I had lost interest in fake attributes in life where a T-shirt or a watch or your address determines who one is !!

(disclaimer - images have been sourced from the internet. we don't have any claim on them. used as reference)

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