Shirin Ariff’s empowering and heartbreaking memoir tells the story of how she experienced and survive trauma and abuse. When she re-married her second husband and moved to Canada, she was kept as a slave in her own home and endured her husband’s abuse. She hopes to show hope with her writing to other victims, learn more about her journey below.
Hi Shirin, thank you for discussing your memoir, The Second Wife, with us. Please tell us about yourself, where you are from and what your book is about. What inspired you to write it?
Hello! I was born in Kolkata, India and live in Toronto, Canada. I am a proud mother of four beautiful children, an award winning author, an inspirational speaker and women’s empowerment coach. After braving immigration to Canada and surviving cancer, I committed to helping women find their inner strength and become their own guiding force. My book is a memoir with a bit of self-help activities to make it interactive for the readers. There are several reasons for writing this book. I wanted to be heard. I wanted to leave a legacy of no abuse for my children. I wanted to be the voice of all those silently suffering women who are going through what I went through. I wanted the men to know the impact on us women when they hurt us.
What was the biggest obstacle for you when writing this book? Was it scary for you to write down your entire story to share with the world?
My biggest obstacle was to share some of the details of what I went through. I had to re-live those moments and sometimes I would stop writing and tear up, feeling intense emotions. I would question myself for choosing the suffering for so many years. I was also apprehensive of what the consequences would be. Particularly with my ex-husband’s extended family regularly stalking me on my social media pages.
Most women– especially women of color– are made to believe that abuse is their fault and usually live in shame and guilt. How did you overcome this and how do you hope people will respond after reading your book?
Of course, it was always my fault then. I was deserving of abuse for being born a woman. I was worthy of abuse because my parents did not give dowry. I was worthy of abuse for being a divorced woman with a child prior to my second marriage. There was always an excuse for abuse. As a young girl, I never grew up with low self worth. Mental, emotional and verbal abuse shattered my self confidence after my marriage. Over time, I lost the courage to stand up for myself or fight back. It was cancer and the fear that I was going to die and what would happen to my children that made me find my power back. I hope that people will not just see the setbacks in my story but focus on my comeback. I hope that people will respond with feeling empowered to take charge of their own lives.
Did you learn anything new about writing and about yourself while crafting your memoir? What has been the most rewarding part about having this book out in the world?
I learned that simple and authentic story sharing touches people. The most rewarding part of writing this book is the way my children look up to me. I have also been receiving emails from women all over Canada. They have been sharing their suffering with me and are able to see a ray of hope after having conversations with me over the phone.
As an empowerment coach committed to helping women, what do you feel is the most important part of helping women find their strength and freedom? Do you have any memorable moments with other people that you can share with us?
The most important part of helping a woman find her strength and freedom is like watering a plant to blossom and bear fruit. Women are nurturers of the people around them. Empowering one woman not only means empowering the people around her, we end up empowering the future generations being raised by her hands. She shifts, they shift.
Do you have any upcoming events coming up and if people wish to speak with you, what is the best way to reach you?
As a curator of Spoken Lives Toronto West, we resume our story sharing series for women around end of January 2020. It’s a monthly event. As a Founding member of the Immigrant Women in Business, we are a team of enterprising women collaborating to start a Brampton Chapter for empowering immigrant women. My contact details are available on my website at www.shirinariff.com.
You are one of the bravest person we’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing, thank you so much. You are already a real life superhero, but if you could wake up with a super power, which would you pick and why?
I would love to fly or teleport. I miss my family and friends in India. I would visit them regularly. It would also be easier for me to meet the women who reach out to me. Being there in person, for them, and having face to face conversations with them would create a deeper impact. In person interactions would allow us to get the feel of who we are. I would be able to see what their world looks like. It would give me clarity about how I could support them. Uber-delivery of empowerment!
Shirin’s book is available on Amazon.com.