An Evening with Supriya Vani

Supriya Vani had a calm demeanor as she sat at the head of the table and smiled at us. We smiled back nervously as she had not spoken much when she entered the Dean of the Commons’ Residence, only offering words of gratitude for her nomination as the speaker for the annual Crawford House Speaker Lecture. Then, after the dean asked her a question, she lit up and began to speak as though she had a wonderful secret she had to share.

On Wednesday, October 30th I had the opportunity, along with a few of my fellow freshmen and other Vanderbilt faculty members, to have dinner with Ms. Vani.

She is an inspiring woman who has traveled the world interviewing Nobel Laureates, with a special interest in speaking with the women winners. She has focused her time on learning about the barriers these women have broken in order to effect meaningful change in this unjust world. She has documented these amazing conversations in her acclaimed book: “Battling Injustice: 16 Women Nobel Peace Laureates.”

Vani’s allure extends beyond her work. Her enchanting character is touching as well. That night, as she spoke, her strength, passion and authenticity left us all in awe.

She displayed her strength as she spoke about the troubles she faced when trying to speak with the female Nobel Laureates — often sneaking in and out of countries, hiding from security, and traveling with little money. Additionally, Vani described the toll and difficulty of listening to the stories of these women who had witnessed or experienced rape, abuse, seclusion, torture, and death of loved ones.

Her passion shined when she told us that it was never her intention to write a book for the money or fame: she simply began her work out of curiosity to learn more.

Lastly, her genuine care for equality and peace were evident through her actions. She spoke about how she and her family rejected her high caste (1) last name in order to promote equality — she truly lives by the words she preaches.

Vani’s passion touched all the individuals who dined with her that evening. Her main takeaways: “girls can do anything” and “everyone should be treated fairly” are not new, but she definitely offered very compelling stories on their importance. I, along with the rest of the attendees I’m sure, are excited to read her book.

1: The caste system in India defines how individuals are treated in society. One is born into a caste, which can not be changed. Being part of “high caste” means individuals receive extra privileges and are treated especially well.