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Last Updated: Friday, 27 June, 2003, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
Indian's silence speaks to Hillary

By Habib Beary
BBC correspondent in Bangalore

Anasuya Sengupta and Hillary Rodham Clinton (BBC and AP Pictures)
Anasuya Sengupta wrote her poem for Mrs Clinton eight years ago
Silence shot her to fame, now she's struggling to avoid the clamour.

When Anasuya Sengupta presented a poem in Delhi to visiting US First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton eight years ago she thought that would be the last she heard of it.

Now the 29-year-old Bangalore activist has become a celebrity and her phone has not stopped ringing.

The reason? Senator Clinton has dedicated a chapter of her autobiography to Anasuya's poem "Silence is not spoken here".

Anasuya, now studying for a doctorate in politics at Oxford, has taken the fame in her stride.

"Frankly, I want to get back to anonymity," she said before jetting off to South Africa to attend a conference on leadership among young women.

UN mention

Anasuya was studying economics at Delhi's Lady Shriram College when her principal asked her to write the poem.

We seek only to give words to those who cannot speak (too many women in too many countries). I seek only to forget the sorrows of my grandmother's silence

Excerpt of Anasuya's poem

The poem struck a chord with Mrs Clinton, who cited it in speeches in Delhi and at a United Nations women's conference in Beijing, before using it in her memoirs.

The mention in the book surprised Anasuya, who also works as a consultant for a Unicef-sponsored programme to make police more sensitive to women's issues.

Anasuya's parents - Abhijit Sengupta, a senior Indian administrative officer and the theatre artiste Poile Sengupta - called her at Kolar, in Karnataka state, where she was working on a rural development programme, to break the news.

Anasuya refused to get carried away.

"It is certainly not a defining moment of my life. It is transient," she says, although she thanks Mrs Clinton for her "graciousness" in acknowledging the poem.

"It speaks a lot about the lady. It is fantastic to know she was inspired by a college girl's poem," Anasuya says.

Social justice

She describes Mrs Clinton as "intelligent and straightforward".

"Women like her could change the stereotype image," says Anasuya, adding: "It is time America had a woman president."

Speculation has grown of a presidential bid by Mrs Clinton, but she says she will not run for office in 2004 or 2008.

Hillary Rodham Clinton signs books
Mrs Clinton's Living History proved an instant hit

On what inspired her to write the poem, Anasuya says: "I'm not quite sure. You can't put it down to one thing. I wrote what I saw of women and their status."

Anasuya is committed to working for the welfare of women.

"I have grown up in a family that is committed to social justice."

Her poem starts: "Too many women in too many countries speak the same language of silence" and tells of her sorrow that her grandmother was expected to remain silent.

US book retailer Barnes and Noble said Mrs Clinton's autobiography set a record for the most sales of a non-fiction book when it went on sale this month.

It shifted more than 40,000 copies to its stores and online customers in the first 24 hours.

Living History includes Mrs Clinton's thoughts on her husband Bill's infidelity with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Mrs Clinton was First Lady between 1992 and 2000.

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