The Search for Beauty – Contemplation of a Child

Child – What is beauty?
Me – Beauty is, in essence, a reflection of the radiation of the light of your soul. It is the strength to conjure within ourselves the courage to stand by what is just and true, including our true selves.
It is a reflection of you.

Child – Hmm… what does it look like?
Me – It looks like shooting stars! They may leave momentary ‘scars’ across the blanket of the sky, but they shine so brightly that it leaves you speechless! It’s that twinkle you get in your eye when you find your heart feeling exhilarated – and that twinkle is also a reflection of you!

Child – Where can I find it?
Me – Anywhere that we look hard enough. It’s like going on a treasure hunt! When you set off in search of good things, they tend to find you instead! Just look hard enough!

Child – How do you ‘know’ that something is truly beautiful though?
Me – You don’t! You just feel it! Even if others may not see it as beautiful, as long as you do, that’s all that matters.

Child – Ukhti (‘sister’ in Arabic)? … How can I become beautiful?
Me – My love, you already are!

 

Looking for beauty

© Naziyah Mahmood, 2016.

The Troubled School

(A quick 15-minute write up)

The Troubled School

There was once a school which was host to hundreds of students; all different and unique, yet all the same and similar.
It was a very old school in which time had seen the best and worst of students pass through its doors.

One day, in the morning classroom, as the students waited for the teacher to arrive, they hung around in groups, or sat and conversed amongst themselves, doodled on their workbooks or just sat alone at their desks. Some would even bring in their card collections and swap cards with one another.

One of the students, whom we will call ‘Circle’, pulled out a shiny new juice box from his backpack. “Wow”, proclaimed Circle, “I didn’t know I had this in my bag! It’s been such a warm week, and now I shall not go thirsty.” Some of Circles friends congratulated him on finding the juice box, and admired its shiny packaging.

Unfortunately, not all of the students felt that way about it. In another group of students on the other side of the classroom, one student was not happy. ‘Square’, as we will name him, looked on in anger as the others admired Circles juice box instead of his own.
Although the two had never been friends, and from time to time had bumped heads a few times in the past, there wasn’t exactly too much animosity between the two prior to the announcement of the juicebox.

Square, being much bigger than Circle, stormed over towards Circle with a small group of his friends. “That’s mine”, yelled Square, and snatched the juicebox from Circle after pushing him so that he stumbled backwards.
“Teacher, Teacher…” cried Circle, “Square pushed me and stole my juicebox.”
Upon hearing this, Square quickly hid the juicebox in his pocket. “No I didn’t” yelled Square, “But Circle has been cheating on his tests, I saw him with answers on his arm, that’s why  I came over here”.
“I didn’t cheat, look, my arms are clean”.

The teacher shook her head and sighed. “You must learn to speak to one another calmly to avoid misunderstandings. You are both in this classroom together, so if you want it to be a happy environment, show one another compassion and kindness.”

The next day was Sports Day, and all of the students were to participate in the sporting events in order to build a strong team spirit.
During the relay race, the signal went and the first runners flew into action. Unfortunately, for some students, “team spirit” was confined to their own perception of who they wanted in their team and not the whole class, as half way into his sprint, Square tripped up Circle who stumbled forward onto his back and grazed his knees in the process.
By this point, both teams were arguing and fighting in defence of their own teams.
“You tripped our teammate on purpose.”
“No I didn’t, he came into my lane”
and on it went.

The other students were now becoming anxious because of the squabbling.

“Teacher, teacher, Square tripped me.”
“No I didn’t. Teacher, Circle came into my lane.”

The teacher turned to the other students who had seen what happened and asked them what they had seen. No one spoke in fear of making enemies.
“Friendship doesn’t mean that you agree with your friend, even when they’re wrong. It means being able to tell your friend that what they’re doing is wrong but still loving them as a friend.”

The next day in class, during break time, it was clear to see that groups had begun to form within the classroom and those who didn’t want to have anything to do with either group would find themselves being pulled one way or the other.

Suddenly, a paper aeroplane zoomed through the air and skimmed passed Circle, but struck one of his friends in the eye.
“That’s it,” yelled Circle, who had become tired of being picked on, and threw a paper ball back at Square. This resulted in an all out paper projectile battle between both sides, and unfortunately meant that the others who were not wanting to get involved would also find themselves drowning in the paper bombardment.

One of Squares friends punched one of Circles friends, so another one of Circles friends punched another one of Squares friends.

“Stop it, this instance” yelled Teacher. “At this rate none of you will graduate. How can you expect to graduate and have a better future, a better tomorrow, if you can’t try to get along today?”

Later, during lunch time, the divide between the groups had become wider, and even within those groups smaller groups had formed. Some students had become so fed up, so pushed to the edge, that they had broken away from their original groups to come up with their own… radical… ideas. Most of these ideas would be kept secret from the main groups as they knew that they wouldn’t be accepted.

Over the next few days, what followed was an onslaught of fight upon fight by those ‘radical’ groups from both sides, during which many innocent students had been injured and hurt.
One student, originally from Circles side, cut the hair of one of the students who sat near Square.
In retaliation, one student, originally from Squares side, used permanent marker all over one of the students who sat near Circle.
When Circle and Square both heard about what those students had done, they realised that things were getting out of hand now and that  they were no longer in control of their respective sides.

It was spiralling out of control, “We are right and they are wrong”. This was the chant of both extreme sides.

Some students would even try to coax or bribe students from the other side to join them, or to give them inside information.
“I’ll give you some extra lunch money, if you give me some information.”
“I’ll give you some paper aeroplanes, if you give me some of your juice.”
“I’ll give you some juice, if you give me some paper aeroplanes.”

One of the students from the ‘radicalized’ groups, from Circles side of the classroom, would even steal from Circle’s bag and distribute the goods to the other side in order to gain power himself.
This then led to arguments and fights within the whole group.

The students who wanted nothing to do with it all were now becoming fed up too. They were getting hurt in the process and wanted nothing to do with either side.
Some students were even trying to plan on how to leave the school and move to another one.

The school was a mess.
There was graffiti all over the bathroom walls, notes passed around the classes with rumours and lies on them, and even the lockers had been smashed up.

“You have all failed” said the teacher during the end of week assembly.
“Instead of trying to come together in compassion, kindness and understanding, many of you have instead turned to violence and wrong means.
It shouldn’t matter where another student sits in the classroom, or what his grades are, but remember that you are all students in this school. By misbehaving, you have brought this school to ruin – who would wish for their children to come to this school now?
It was wrong for all of this to start to begin with, but each group has done wrong by then involving those innocent students who just wanted to graduate, but now can’t either.
Each side has done some wrong in their own way.
Do you not all see how far the effects of your actions have travelled? It was never just about you as groups, but as a school as a whole.
Hurting one fellow student, or doing them wrong, is like doing wrong upon all of the students in this school.
This once beautiful school now lies in ruins.

However… there is still hope. If you learn to get your acts together, study hard, and respect your fellow student regardless of your differences, then you can all graduate together for a better future.

It’ll be a tough journey as hatred and ill feelings don’t exactly disappear overnight. However, if you try hard enough, and think about the wider picture as opposed to just your own interests, then there is still hope of graduating.

We are all one. We are one school. Let’s take care of it.”

Alas, that was the story of the troubled school.
What? What did you think I was talking about, World Politics?

 

© Naziyah Mahmood, 2016.

Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)

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I’d like to say a huge thank you to the City of Glasgow College (COGC) for asking me to be a representative and champion for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as a speaker at their “Women and Girls in STEM” event. I had the honour of speaking to many young women and girls who were interested in what the STEM fields were about, and was able to give them a little insight of what it’s like, as a woman, to be in these fields.
I later joined the girls in some of the experiments available on the day, including the “make a rocket car” Bloodhound experiment!
As I mentioned in my talk, there is still such a strong underrepresentation of women in STEM and we don’t only ‘want’ more women in these fields, but ‘need’ them for so many reasons.


I later had some of the girls approach me to tell me that their perception of what STEM was had changed during that day, and that they were now hoping to pursue a future in these fields – as you could imagine, it was a very proud moment for this STEM mama bear!!
From meeting the other incredible speakers (Dr Peter Hughes from Primary Engineer, Talat Yaqoob of Equate Scotland and Susie Mitchell from Glasgow City of Science), to being able to deliver the message of how STEM isn’t always what we’re shown in the media and by stereotype (I.e. simply just lab coats, boiler suits and hardhats!) it was a very successful and insightful day for all!


Most of all, being able to watch the future generation of our women in STEM growing a passion for these topics was so rewarding!!
COGC, keep up the amazing work!

(Will hopefully upload a short video from the event soon!)

(Image from gatcrva)

An Interview on Metapunk

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Marcus Gilman for interviewing me for his Metapunk website! It was such a pleasure to talk to him (sorry I rambled on so much!) The interview can be found in the podcast near the bottom of the linked page!
(Warning: I rambled on for almost an hour, so it’s pretty long >< … Eeek! I talk wayyyy too fast *sigh* Glaswegians!)

 

Does anyone else find it hard to recognize their voice on a mic too!?

INTERVIEW FOUND HERE!

I Am Me

To the lady who, out of ‘care’, said I shouldn’t be wasting my time on ‘fighting, sticks and swords’ because it’s not something a girl should be doing – thank you for your care, but I do not need your permission to do the things I love. If me empowering myself is something that is strange to your social norms for what ‘girl’s should and shouldn’t be doing’, then I’m happy to be the one who shakes your world.

To the misogynist who smiled and oh-so confidently said that my love for the sciences is only a fad, and that my academic and industrial experiences in the fields of space systems, aerospace engineering and astrophysics were only ‘decorative’ – I do not need your approval to carry on with my interests in these fields, or to feel a sense of worth in my accomplishments. Oh, also, for someone who so happily put it down to ‘a girl being given the easy route’, I went through more hardships to get to where I am than you can probably comprehend. I am proud of the work I have done in these fields.
(P.S. In one of your recent posts, you made a HUGE blunder in your calculation of a Schwarzschild radius by using 2c instead of c^2 – just thought I’d point that out, not that ‘I’ know anything about astrophysics though, right?)

To the person who said that my hijab doesn’t reflect my ‘British’ culture – I do not need your approval or your permission upon how I dress. I am from an incredibly varied background and sit on a line between many cultures. I have the freedom do dress how I like since my hijab isn’t out to offend anyone. Is it going to jump off my head and strangle you?
If I want to dress like a Jedi, then I will. If I chose to wear a panda outfit, good on me. If I, as I normally do, ‘compliment’ my martial arts uniform with something that represents my belief and who I am, then I will do so. Don’t worry, it will match and I will rock that look.

Most of all… to the media that seems to have created a new stereotype of what ‘modern’ Muslim women should be like – the ones who should jump to apologize for every act of terrorism or crime that has nothing to do with them, the ones who need to prove themselves in their community as an adequate British civilian by trying harder than the rest, and the ones who have to drape their national colours over their heads – I do NOT need your permission or approval to live. What you have done is create a new set of rules of “how you can be more British and integrate with society” for a large group of people who are ALREADY a part of society. YOU demonize them, then command them to behave in a certain way to ‘re-integrate’ into the world they were already living normally in.
The colour of my skin, the clothes that I wear or my cultural background is not a reason to create a new set of rules for me if I’m already living peacefully just like everyone else.

As long as I’m not hurting anyone, I will exist as I wish to exist, do what I want to do and be who I want to be.
If that scares you, guess what? I don’t need your permission for any of that, so get used to it.

Stop putting people in boxes.
I AM ME. DEAL WITH IT.

 

B

(Photograph by Linda Macpherson)

Ink

Dear…

The beautiful sentiment and thought put into writing a hand written letter is something that’s unfortunately been lost in this era of technology and virtual communication.
There was once a time, when the internet had just been born, that the idea of receiving an email was incredibly appealing since we would send and receive letters quite often.
However, times have now changed so that we glance over our emails during our busy and rushed days, yet seldom do we receive a heartfelt, ink scribed letter of affection from loved ones.
Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something rather romantic, and familiar, about lifting a pen and scribbling down our thoughts for someone in specific to read.
Be it a family member, a friend, a pen-pal or the person of your affections, there is a deep sense of appreciation between both people upon seeing the personally drawn words of the sender.

 

A letter holds a lot of emotional power – upon seeing the font of the author, we find ourselves reminiscing over our past encounters. In each letter of every word, there is an emotional fingerprint, a personal form of identification which has the ability to convey the strength of the writer’s feelings – from sadness and loneliness, to joy and hope.
A hand written letter is, in a sense, a form of poetic expression shared between two people. It is an untold story waiting to be read, and the painfully anticipated answers to our mutually shared hopes.

 

I still remember writing letters to my dear friends who had moved away when I was a young child, and I recall waiting anxiously for their replies (which often came with a small gift depending on the occasion!) I also recall reading the letters that were exchanged between my grandparents and their families across the world, and it was one of those special moments in childhood where you feel transported to a different place, surrounded by different people, when you read about what their lives were like.
As time moves forward, everything really does become more about ‘faster, better, more convenient’. Just one century ago, we’d hear of stories of lovers who were separated by space and time, and yet their loyalty, hopes and love would never diminish – rather, the anticipation of that letter that would take months to arrive would only strengthen their bond.
Compare that to an age where if we don’t receive a reply text from our loved ones, we somehow feel as though they have betrayed us!
Although efficiency is important in this time, it’s also important to slow down sometimes so that we may absorb the true reality of feelings and emotion around us.

 

I’ve always had a love for writing letters, though I can honestly say that in recent years I haven’t been able to send as many as I would have liked.
As such, I’ve made it a resolution to try to write a heartfelt letter more often, and I’ll look forward to receiving them too!

Why not pick up that pen and start writing your “To’s” and “Dears” as well!?
Best wishes,

Naziyah!

 

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