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Sweeping in Dubai

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The 17-Year Dedication of a Dubai Street Sweeper

by Shafaat Shahbandari with Ranger Kidwell-Ross
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Being a street sweeper for Dubai Municipality doesn't mean riding around in an air-conditioned machine. Rather, the task entails walking on foot while sweeping the curbline and other areas in a country where the temperature averages over 100-degrees fahrenheit for five months of the year.

Naushad Raynkarveedu has been sweeping the streets of Dubai for 17 years, making sure the city's roads and sidewalks are litter-free, even while fasting during Ramadan.

Naushad is among hundreds of Dubai Municipality sweepers who ensure Dubai streets are spotless despite the harsh weather conditions they work under. "It is difficult but I am used to the routine, it has been so many years now. During Ramadan, we work reduced hours and our shifts start either very early in the day when the sun is not so strong or in the later part of the day when the sun is beginning to go down, so this makes things a bit easier," said the 43-year-old from Kerala, India.


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In non-Ramadan months, Raynkarveedu works afternoon shifts from 2pm to 9pm and in Ramadan the shift is reduced to five hours, beginning at 5pm and ending at 10pm, with a short iftar break in between. "Our management is really kind and they take into consideration the difficulty of our job, particularly during this month. We have been asked to go easy and our supervisors advise us to take short breaks to make sure we are not exhausted," he added.

Dubai Municipality offers all its labourers free iftar meals at their accommodation, but Raynkarveedu is on duty during the time of iftar and he ends his fast at an iftar tent in the area he works. "Working on the streets I have made many friends, people are kind, they always offer food and drinks. But, I mostly end my fast at an iftar tent near the mosque in the area I work," said Raynkarveedu, who has been working in the area of Port Saeed, outside Deira City Centre for 12 years. When he returns home after work, his packet of iftar meal provided by municipality, including biryani, fruits and juices, is waiting for him in his room, which he uses as his suhoor meal.

Here's a 12-second video that shows Naushad Raynkarveedu at work. If you cannot see the embedded video, go here (will open in a new browser window).

A Man of discipline

Raynkarveedu follows a strict routine and keeps himself fit by cycling 15 kilometres daily, which he says helps him to do his job efficiently. "I wake up at 4am regularly. During Ramadan I wake up an hour early and go to bed at 10pm. I cycle daily even on my day off. This has been my routine for many years and it has helped me stay fit," he added.

Father of a newborn girl, Aisha, who was born after 12 years of his marriage, Raynkarveedu says he is satisfied with his job and doesn't want to change, despite having opportunities to move up the ladder. "I have my driving license for more than 10 years now and if I wanted I could have opted for a driver's job like many others. So many of my colleagues got jobs in the municipality as drivers, but I like this job and I am happy with what I am doing and the money I am earning," said the sweeper, who earns Dh1,800 per month, about $500 U.S. dollars.

Despite his meager salary, Raynkdarveedu says he is happy and content with his job, which has helped him support his big family. "Since taking up this job in 2002 I have raised enough money to marry off my four sisters, I myself got married and have a child now. I have got our ancestral home renovated and expanded and I have also purchased a small plot. I am more than happy and content with how things are," he said, adding that he is willing to work for another 17 years as a sweeper, unless destiny has other plans.

GulfNewsLogo120The majority of this story was written by Shafaat Shahbandari and reprinted from the UAE edition of Gulf News.
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