On the bustling streets of Chennai, a chance encounter between content creator Mohamed Ashik and an elderly beggar has touched hearts and illustrated the profound impact of compassion and generosity.
Ms Merlin, an 81-year-old from Myanmar, once led a very different life. She married an Indian man and moved to Chennai, but fate dealt her a series of heartbreaking blows. Most of her family members died, leaving her alone, struggling to make ends meet.
But a heartwarming story unfolded when she met Mr Ashik.
What began as a casual conversation soon revealed Ms Merlin’s remarkable fluency in English, a skill honed during her earlier years as a school teacher in Myanmar.
Mr Ashik was moved by Ms Merlin’s story and decided to make a difference in her life, reported India Today.
He gave her a sari and, more importantly, asked her to start providing English tuition, offering to pay her to make content in English. True to his word, Mr Ashik started the Instagram page English With Merlin.
Ms Merlin’s story struck a chord with netizens and the video starring Merlin paati (grandmother) has reached almost 30 million views on Instagram, reported NDTV.
Not only did millions of people start to follow her account @englishwithmerlin, but some also helped her reconnect with her former landlord’s family who saw to it that Ms Merlin had a spot at an old-age home in Royapettah.
“I spotted Merlin paati near Besant Nagar beach on Sept 9. I recognised her from a previous video in which she had asked the content creator for a blouse because the one she was wearing was torn. So, I gave her a sari and a blouse, but I couldn’t leave it at that,” Mr Ashik told The News Minute.
“During our conversation, she corrected my pronunciation and said that she was an English teacher. I didn’t want her to beg. So I thought of creating an Instagram page where she could teach.”
Since then, Mr Ashik has uploaded reels of Ms Merlin teaching basic conversational English and narrating stories for children.
Ms Merlin said she migrated to India in 1996 after her marriage and was forced to live on the streets following the death of her husband, son and mother-in-law.
“Since 2018, I have struggled on the streets for day-to-day activities like bathing or using a public toilet. I have been sleepless on several nights,” she told The News Minute.
Ms Merlin said she was also featured in the videos of other content creators who offered help. “Some gave money, others helped with old clothes, food and medicine, while some even offered to get me mango juice.”
Ms Ashik’s viral video helped Ms Merlin reconnect with her old landlord’s family.
Mr Logu Padmanabhan alias Shyam, the landlord’s son who used to attend her tuition classes as a child, reached out to her after seeing the video.
“With the help of my friend Dinesh Kumar from (leading Tamil entertainment website) Behindwoods, I went searching for Gama (short for grandmother). When we found her, I spoke to her and helped her recollect who I was. Dinesh recorded it on his phone and eventually published it,” Mr Shyam told The News Minute.
Ms Merlin said she was shocked to see Mr Shyam. “I was surprised that he still remembered me and came all the way to see me. He was more than a student to me, he is like my grandson,” she said.
While Ms Merlin’s daughter lives in the city, she is not in a position to extend support, according to Mr Shyam.
“We located some of her other relatives but Gama preferred to go to an old-age home,” he said.
With the help of Uravugal Trust’s Khaalid Ahamed and Mr Dinesh, Ms Merlin was moved into the old-age home, in Royapettah in central Chennai. “I am happy and peaceful here,” she said.
Mr Shyam’s medical officer wife monitors Ms Merlin’s health and their family is looking to take Ms Merlin to live with them once their house construction is complete.
“From 1996 to 2003, Gama’s family and mine lived as one. That was eight whole years. It is unfortunate that she was living on the roads. Once we move to our new house, we will take her in,” said Mr Shyam.
Mr Ashik said he will continue with the English With Merlin page and publish educational videos to support Ms Merlin, who was in disbelief when she was told that she has millions of followers on Instagram.
“Really? Promise me, don’t lie,” she exclaimed.
“If that is so, sure, I will make more videos. I am always a teacher and that is what I will do.”
Indo-Asian News Service