An Indian's poem that resonates with Clinton, 14 years on

Last Updated: Mon, Jul 20, 2009 09:10 hrs

Fourteen years ago, Anasuya Sengupta, a student of Lady Shri Ram college, had recited a poem written by her before the then US first lady Hillary Clinton when she came to India on her first official visit.

Clinton was so impressed that a chapter in her 2003 autobiography 'Living History' was inspired by the poem. The chapter is called 'Silence is Not Spoken Here'.

On Monday, Anasuya -- now an activist for women's rights -- was present at Delhi University's Convention Hall, where Clinton came visiting as US Secretary of State.

Addressing the thousand-strong audience, Clinton revisited the poem and its poet.

'In 1995, I met a student, Anasuya Sengupta, who read out a self-written poem. The last few lines of the poem read: 'Too many women in too many countries speak the same language -- the language of silence,' she said.

'Today she is a women's rights activist. She has not remained silenced.'

This is the poem:


Too many women in too many countries

speak the same language of silence.

My grandmother was always silent, always aggrieved

Only her husband had the cosmic right (or so it was said)

to speak and be heard.

They say it is different now.

(After all, I am always vocal and my grandmother

thinks I talk too much)

But sometimes I wonder.

When a woman shares her thoughts, as some women do,

graciously, it is allowed.

When a woman fights for power, as all women would like

to, quietly or loudly, it is questioned.

And yet, there must be freedom - if we are to speak

And yes, there must be power - if we are to be heard.

And when we have both (freedom and power) let us now be


We seek only to give words to those who cannot speak

(too many women in too many countries)

I seek to forget the sorrows of my grandmother's silence.

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