A young mother of three travelled all the way from Nagaland’s Dimapur to Agra with her children to earn Rs 2,000 — the sum she needed to free her son from a moneylender who had kept her older son as “mortgage” for a loan for her husband’s funeral.
Rita didn’t land a job in the Uttar Pradesh city famous for the Taj Mahal, but found herself in a situation that forced her to sleep rough with her three-year-old younger son and daughter, a toddler of two.
She rummaged through garbage for discarded food and drank water from public taps, and even drains, to quench her thirst in the searing May heat.
Social activist Naresh Paras has seen many poor, homeless people and even he found the woman’s behaviour strange when he saw her drinking water from a filthy drain and feeding spoilt food to the children at the Shah market on Saturday.
He approached her but couldn’t understand a word as she barely spoke Hindi, let alone English or any language other than her mother tongue.
A helpless Paras contacted police and the Lucknow-based charity, Asha Jyoti Kendra, which assigned a local counsellor to communicate with her. A UP police constable was present when Rita, in her twenties, narrated her story to the counsellor.
She told them that she travelled nearly 2,000km to Agra with her brother-in-law for a job but he left her to fend for herself and the young kids soon after reaching the city five days ago.
Rita lost her husband, Mukesh, about seven months ago and borrowed Rs 2,000 for his last rites from a moneylender in Dimapur.
The loan shark kept her son, seven-year-old Sonu, as a “security deposit” and got her a job in a tea garden to help her pay back the dues. But with a meagre salary of Rs 40 a day, she knew she would never be able to secure her son’s release.
The desperate and broken mother got Sonu’s name tattooed on her hand as the moneylender wouldn’t allow her to meet him.
Rita discussed her situation with brother-in-law Pappu, who promised to find her a job. “She then left for Agra with her other two kids,” Paras said.
The social activist contacted a senior police officer in Kohima, the Nagaland capital, and narrated Rita’s story.
“He assigned sub-inspector A Singla in Dimapur to look into the matter. Singla called me and promised help once Rita is back in her hometown.”
This Mother’s Day, she boarded the Brahmaputra Express from Tundla junction to Dimapur.
Several shopkeepers at the Shah market gave her clothes, footwear and food, and paid the autorickshaw fare to the train station.
“They also informed railway police about her,” Paras said.
The shopkeepers pooled and gave her Rs 3,500, which included the money she owed to the moneylender. Paras and his associates bought her train ticket.
It was her heartrending story that opened the shopkeepers’ hearts. They were quite hostile initially when Rita tried to walk away with a water bottle from a store, forcing the thirsty mother to drink from a drain.