But the utterly heartbreaking story might have a positive ending.
A girl covers her eyes as she walks with her mother on the banks of the Ganges river during a dust storm on a hot summer day in Allahabad, India.
The tragic story of a mother's utter desperation and poverty, that found resonance with people in Agra, might eventually help her reunite with her young son.
A young mother of three travelled all the way from Dimapur to Agra with her two young children to raise Rs 2000 to free her seven-year-old son she had been forced to mortgage to a local moneylender to pay back the loan she had taken for her husband's funeral.
Rita lost her husband in October 2016 and was forced to mortgage her eldest son Sonu to a local moneylender to raise the money for his funeral. Rita, who earned Rs 40 a day, could not pay back the sum, and on advice of her brother-in-law, decided to seek employment in Agra.
However, once in Agra, Pappu, her brother-in-law, allegedly left her to fend for herself. Out on the streets in May heat for a week, she drank water from street taps, and even from drains, and rummaged through garbage heaps to feed her two other children — three-year-old Nandini and one-and-a-half-year-old Arun — semi-spoiled food. She was rebuffed by a local shopkeeper when she asked for a bottle of water to quench her thirst.
Fortunately for her, on Saturday, social activist Naresh Paras found her.
Unable to understand her language and communicate with her, Paras contacted the police and a Lucknow-based charity — Asha Jyoti Kendra — which then assigned a local counsellor. When details of her ordeal were revealed, local shopkeepers decided to give the family food, footwear and Rs 3500 in cash.
"She told us she tried to approach the police for help, but was rebuffed," Paras said.
The social workers contacted the police in Nagaland, who reportedly assured them help in tracking the moneylender and releasing the boy from him. She boarded the Brahmaputra Mail at 3 am on Sunday, accompanied by RPF and GRP personnel.