You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body; and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it; you watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:13-16 (NLTCE)
Praise God for the way He made Margaret Alva!
She has just released her autobiography, 'Courage and Commitment' in which the amazing growth of her career (details given below testimony) stuns national and international followers of Indian politics. In this NLTCE exclusive, Margaret shares of the time when everything went wrong with her world and career and she was descending into a bottomless pit of deep despair. At that time, it was only the Word of God that could pull her back to the land of living and thriving.
It was the worst phase in my life. I had never been through so much pain and depression.
The Congress Party had an astounding victory! In the legislative elections held in India in 2004, over 670 million people voted, electing 543 members of the 14th Lok Sabha. On 13 May, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) conceded defeat. The Indian National Congress which had governed India for all but five years from independence until 1996, returned to power after a record eight years out of office. It was able to put together a comfortable majority of more than 335 members out of 543 with the help of allies. Congress President Sonia Gandhi surprised observers by declining to become the new Prime Minister, instead asking former Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, a respected economist, to head the new government. The widow of former PM Rajiv Gandhi would have become India’s first Roman Catholic prime minister had she not surprised everyone by turning down the post.
Global respect for Sonia Gandhi went up as international news channels like BBC and CNN reported that Mrs Gandhi had spent time in prayer and felt she should not take up the post.
There was jubilation in almost every sector of the Congress because nobody had imagined we would win – the BJP had been so confident of its victory.
Jubilation everywhere except in my home and soul. My party had won but I had lost. I had stood from Karnataka, which was one of the few States which the BJP had managed to conquer by winning 18 seats. I did not just stand for elections from Karnataka, I belong to the state, I was born and brought up in Mangalore and lived in Bangalore, but my own people let me down. I will never understand why they did it, and at that time the darkness of despair, bitterness, and the anguish that follows such public failure shrouded me completely. I sat in my home in Delhi and refused to meet any visitors.
My family tried to comfort me but I was beyond comfort. Then my eldest son Niret, who declared to us that he has a personal relationship with Christ, sat me down and spoke to me for a long time. He said he understood my pain at having been let down by people I trusted. He also told me that unless I forgave them, I would have no peace and I would not be able to get on with my life. I told him I would not be able to forgive them; even God would have been able to see how badly I had been betrayed. Niret told me about how Jesus had told Peter not only to forgive a brother who had sinned against him “seven times” but “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18-21-35 NLTCE). He insisted Jesus wants us to always forgive others without limitation and he reminded me that Jesus ends the parable by saying that if we fail to forgive others, then God will not forgive us for the mistakes we make.
After my son left, I went and stood before the altar in our house. I wept before God and said, “Help me to forgive, I am finding it so difficult.” I stood silently there for quite a while, and then without my realizing when it had happened, a deep peace enveloped me. All the sadness and bitterness dissolved and disappeared and I felt lightness in my heart I cannot describe.
Two hours later, I got a call from Soniaji’s secretary who said she wanted to see me that evening. I went and was completely stunned when she told me (I had just lost her party the state of Karnataka!) that she wanted me to be the General Secretary of the Congress Party of India. There was no time to digest the miracle that had taken place because the next day some of us had to leave for the XV International Aids Conference in Bangkok attended by Nelson Mandela and other great world leaders. Soniaji was there too; she was called upon to give a speech after which she received a standing ovation.
Later, as she was passing me to leave the venue, I said to her, “You spoke very well Madam.” She simply crinkled her eyes at me and whispered, “Come back soon to Delhi, Margaret.” The VIPs had return flights for that day itself. Many of us had to leave the next day.
By the time my flight landed at Delhi the following day, the announcement had already been released about my appointment as the General Secretary of the Congress Party of India, and as I stepped into the airport, there were people rushing to congratulate me.
At a time when there could have been those who scorned me or turned their backs on me for the loss in Karnataka, God had worked out things in such a way that I had people greeting me warmly and with a lot of love and praise.
It was only because I had chosen to forgive.
These are only some of the landmarks of Margaret Alva’s splendid career:
- Prime Minister Indira Gandhi heard Margaret speaking at a function and immediately set her aside for greater endeavors
- Elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1974, she served four consecutive six-year terms in that House, before she was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1999
- She was appointed Union Minister for State of Parliamentary Affairs in the Rajiv Gandhi Government, later moving to the Ministry of Human Resource Development in charge of Youth Affairs and Sports, Women and Child Development
- She also served as Union Minister of State for Personnel, Pension, Public Grievances and Administrative Reforms (attached to the Prime Minister) where she took governance to the grass foots
- She was elected Chairperson of the first SAARC Ministerial meet on Women in Development and a UNICEF sponsored Conference on Children in South Asia
- She chaired the UN Women’s Group of Experts Meeting to assess the impact of the Decade for Women and Violence against Women
- She was part of the national delegation to the UN General Assembly in 1976 and 1997
- She is a lawyer by profession and practiced with her husband Niranjan Alva in the Supreme Court
- She has lectured at Harvard and Columbia Universities
- She is recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Excellence for her achievements in public life, and also of the First Nelson Mandela Award for minority empowerment
- She has also served as Governor of two states.
By Ingrid Albuquerque with Margaret Alva
Ingrid Albuquerque-Solomon is an author, mainstream media writer, and theologian. She currently serves as the Content Editor of Haggai Institute of International Leadership, Consultant with Berean Bay Media House, and facilitator for weekly Bible studies in TAFTEE (The Association for Theological Education by Extension).