Cleaner Draws Heart on Sidewalk With Leaves, Longs to See Family Amid Pandemic

October 30, 2020 Updated: November 14, 2020

A cleaner in downtown Dubai was unwittingly caught on camera sculpting a heart on the sidewalk from fallen twigs and leaves. The poignant image has touched the hearts of many.

Ramesh Gangarajam Gandi, 30, had no idea he was being observed, but local resident Nesma Farahat was quietly watching from her window as he worked.

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Ramesh Gangarajam Gandi draws a heart on the sidewalk in Dubai from fallen twigs and leaves. (Courtesy of Nesma Farahat)

“I was just wrapping up my work from my home desk when I noticed a worker crafting something on the pavement with this heap of dried leaves that he had collected,” Farahat told Khaleej Times.

Farahat moved out to her balcony to watch Gandi perfect his creation.

“It was just such a sweet sight and lasted for just like a minute or two as by the time I went out to see he had almost completed the shape and was just smoothing out the edges,” she added.

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(Illustration – Plamen Galabov/Shutterstock)

Farahat told the Khaleej Times that Gandi “lovingly” looked at the heart for just a few seconds before sweeping the leaves and twigs into his cart and walking away.

Gandi, an Indian expatriate, was employed as a housekeeper by Emrill, a facilities management company in the UAE, in September 2019. He had got married just one month before moving to the UAE, the report said.

On the day he crafted the heart on the sidewalk, Gandi was missing his wife. Gandi’s wife lives in India with her elderly in-laws. Everyone, Gandi lamented, has been in some way affected by the coronavirus.

“I was thinking about home,” he told the outlet. “I was wondering what everyone was doing and how everyone was … I didn’t get to enjoy married life for very long.”

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(Illustration – Yakov Oskanov/Shutterstock)

“We have not been able to travel freely,” Gandi told Khaleej Times, “and I think everyone is worried about the health of their friends and family.”

He told the outlet that he wasn’t sad on the day the viral picture was taken. “I like being in Dubai, and I enjoy my job, but it has been difficult being away from my family, especially because of COVID-19. I worry about them,” Gandi said.

When Farahat shared the photo of Gandi and his heart on Instagram, her post was private, but the photo was quickly circulated by others, and thousands of netizens responded with messages of support for the sentimental street sweeper.

“I was amazed at the outpouring of love and support,” Farahat said, adding that she and her friends plan to approach the developer of the area to request an installation to commemorate Gandi’s sweet act, “kind of a semi-permanence,” she said.

After seeing Gandi’s photo on social media, the Dubai Ministry of Community Development reached out through his employer and sent a gift package as a token of their support. Instagram page “thehappyboxofficial” caught wind of the story and shared a snap of the cleaner with the package in his hands.

Meanwhile, as travel restrictions are gradually relaxed, Gandi plans to fly back to India as soon as he can.

“It makes me feel happy to know I will see my family soon and can help out at home,” he told Khaleej Times.

“I am really excited to see my wife again and to be able to spend some more time with her before I come back to Dubai,” he added.

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