She is Bangalore’s own Mother Teresa. For hundreds of leprosy patients in the city’s Sumanahalli Leprosy Rehabilitation Society, Sr. Mary Mascarenhas is providence personified.

And now they want to give her something in return. After thinking long and hard, they have decided to gift her a silver Nano car on her 75th birthday on Saturday.

“Our amma [mother] has been running about all these years in public transport buses to get us facilities from the government. She has been struggling for our cause without expecting anything in return. Whenever we gave her something, she always gave it away to a needy person. So now we are giving her a Nano car,” said Ramesh Babu, who is now an attender at the city municipal corporation.

Around 500 cured patients who have been placed in various government and private sector jobs have contributed whatever they could to buy the car.

Recalling how she picked him up from the Majestic railway station, where he was starving to death in 1990, Mr. Babu said he owed his life to her.

He was a fourth standard student when he was thrown out of his home in Madhugiri (after he contracted leprosy).

“I can never forget that affectionate touch on my head by amma. Noticing that I was eating a banana peel, she lifted me up and took me to Sumanahalli,” Mr. Babu said.

She has worked for the cause of leprosy patients for the past 35 years, and is now a placement officer at the Society. Her desire is to see every last leprosy patient rehabilitated. Fighting her way through the corridors of power, from the Governor’s office to the Chief Minister’s residence, Sr. Mary has been responsible for rehabilitating at least 500 leprosy patients in various government jobs.

Thanks to her efforts, about 800 houses have been built and allotted to cured patients through schemes such as Ashraya Yojana of the Karnataka Slum Clearance Board and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Rejuvenation Mission.

Following an appeal from Archbishop Arokiaswamy to join the newly-started leprosy project in Sumanahalli in 1977, a letter of invitation was circulated among all Sisters of St. Joseph of Tarbes to work there. “A young Sister responded positively to this appeal. Leaving her job as a government teacher in Chikmagalur, Sr. Mary moved to Sumanahalli and has been here ever since,” said Fr. George Kannanthanam, Director of Sumanahalli Society. “Sr. Mary maintains a personal relationship with every person who has been rehabilitated. Sumanahalli would have never been Sumanahalli without her,” he said.