#WomenInScience: Sana from Pakistan


“I am a mathematician, who life has made her an artist”

Sana comes from Pakistan and has been living in Greece for the last 7 months. She speaks fluent English. She has studied mathematics, just like her mother. Actually, she had begun a postgraduate course, but she was unable to complete her studies since she had to leave her country. Her dream is to continue her studies and do a Ph.D. Her mother raised her and her two brothers to love math. “Mathematics is my love”, she states. They say math needs imagination. “Mathematics is a real-life fantasy game. It is real. People believe the unknown x does not exist, but it’s always there, and you need to be open-minded to see it”, she explains.

Sana is a woman of many pursuits and an avid individual. She writes poetry, has a strong interest in literature and wants to publish her own poetry and novel book. She has already pictured herself interviewing journalists for her book. Her relationship with writing began when she was 16 years old. Her favorite poets are the Pakistani Mohammed Iqbal, also known as Allama Iqbal and Mirza Ghalib. “I have never imagined myself writing poetry. When I was finishing a text, I was wondering why I wrote it”, she explains. “You are also an artist”, we say to her, and she corrects us by telling us that “I am a mathematician who life has made her an artist”.

“My poems are about the situations I face. There are things in my mind that I cannot tell anyone. I observe people, their behavior and then I write. I write about the feelings I have”, she stresses. The theme of her writings has changed in time. Now what matters most to her is everything that has to do with her journey and memories from her homeland. “You never know what you’re going to write”, she underlines. Poetry has no program, it is something that “happens” spontaneously. Sana prefers to write late at night when everyone is asleep at home. “I just grab a pencil and paper and I write down my thoughts”, she says. We ask her if she reads her texts to her family and she tells us that her mother proudly posts them on her social media while her brother sets her texts to music. Both of them encourage and support her in every way.

In addition to poetry and fiction, Sana eagers to learn Greek and to continue her studies in Greece. Her dreams led her to SolidarityNow’s Blue Refugee Center in Thessaloniki. There she was informed about the manicure-pedicure seminars, which were organized in the context of the organization’s Education Program. As a more positivist mind, she had some hesitations at first on whether she would like the lessons. Basically, she thought that it would be dull, but her perspective changed when she started attending the seminars. Her goal now is to attain her own beauty salon. Can math be combined with manicure-pedicure? Sana replies yes. “When you work with math all day you feel tired. The manicure-pedicure relaxes me, and I feel like taking care of myself as a woman”, she points out.

How does life in Greece treat a young girl from Pakistan? Sana replies with a title of a Beatles song: “Here we are free as birds; we can go wherever we want”. The good weather, the friendliness and the smile of the people are some of the main reasons that make her want to stay in Greece. “You never feel alone in Greece; you constantly have people around you, especially in the Blue Refugee Center. Anyone who comes is welcomed with a smile. The staff here has a very strong relationship with people. I cannot find a word that accurately describes this relationship. I realized that the feeling I have developed here is something I lacked back in Pakistan. Everyone feels unique in their lives, and here I have also become unique”, she explains.

Sana is optimistic about her life and her future. She claims that her mother has raised her in a similar manner: “she gave me all her positive energy”. “Even when other people think everything is dark, I say no, there is always a light out there”, she says with confidence, convincing us as well. Listening to her talking about life, we recall the lyrics of a Smiths song, “there is a light that never goes out”.

Closing our vivid discussion, we ask her if she wants to send out a message. She smiles and putting her hands on the table stoically, tells us a well-known phrase that the first Pakistani Nobel laureate physicist, Abdul Salam had said “Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching”.

We are obliged to constantly learn new things and evolve. At first, I thought the seminars would not be interesting; I thought they would be too simplistic. But then I thoroughly enjoyed them. I am very sorry for those who missed the opportunity to attend, but I feel very lucky to have completed the lessons and to hold my new diploma in my hands”.

* The Blue Refugee Center is supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and UNICEF and funded by the EU.