It is not easy being an everyday hero.

The next time you complain about your job – while sipping some fancy coffee in an air-conditioned room, think about those who have it hard. Real hard.

As part of #IkonEveryday, a series by R.AGE and the Government Transformation Programme (GTP), our writers had the opportunity to find out just how some of our cities’ unsung heroes go about solving our #FirstWorldProblems, and boy were they difficult.

They tried these heroes’ jobs for a day and here are their stories. Happy Malaysia Day, everyone!
You can also check out the #IkonEveryday teaservideos on YouTube. This series is iand the full video will be launched on Sept 16n conjunction with Malaysia Day.


Clean ’em up

Location: Bukit Bintang, KL

Growing up, I had a million dreams – to become a singer, policewoman, teacher, doctor, author and more. But one of the less ambitious dreams I had was to become a road sweeper.

There was something about sweeping that had always attracted me, and goodness knows that I’ve had enough practise thanks to my clean freak mother. (Just so you know, we have five brooms in the house – all for different purposes.)

Last month, I was given the chance to realise one of my many childhood dreams. I was “invited” to sweep the roads of Kuala Lumpur as part of the #IkonEveryday series and I jumped at the opportunity.

At the assignment, I met Nesamani Periasamy, 49, an Alam Flora employee who patiently showed me the ropes – and it was quite a short “rope”, as all I was required to do was gather rubbish, scoop it all up, themand dump themit in the bin.
However, I failed at the task.

Sweeping a gravel road while holding the broom at a certain angle degreeis not exactly the easiest thing in the world, and five minutes into the job, my shoulder acted up. Nesamani does it for hours and, most of the time, she does it alone.
“The hardest part of this job is to return to an area only to find it dirty again in a matter of minutes. It saddens me to know that people don’t appreciate my work to help keep this city clean,” she says in Tamil.

Although I only did the work for a few hours, I too felt disappointed at people’s disregard tofor cleanliness. It was sad to see rubbish strewn around empty garbage bins; and it wasNesamani has to spend time cleaning it up ’s job to clean itwhen the litter bug perpetratorcould have easily used the facilities provided.

I also learned that road sweepers don’t just sweep the roads. They have to keep the rainwater drainage clean and sometimes this itinvolves sticking theira hand into dark holes without knowing what’s waiting for themat the other end.

When I had to do it, I could only think of being the first person to get bitten by a snake bitein a touristy area in the middle of the city.

Oh, they also have to do weeding and that requires a lot of squatting, which my knees didn’t appreciate at all.

As much as I had loved the experience of working as a road sweeper for a day, I’dI’ll be the first to admit that it’s no walk in the park.

It’s a real tough job that people like Nesamani have to do come rain or shine, and these everyday icons deserve recognition and, more importantly, appreciation from all Malaysians. — Sharmila Nair

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