One day, at the City Centre gym, Kannur, the singer Sayanora Philip approached the trainer Ashley D’Cruze, and said, “My parents are looking for a boy that I could get married to. I like you as a person. Would you be interested?”
For a moment, Ashley was taken aback. Then he said, “Let’s see.”
Ashley was already impressed by Sayanora. She was the only woman in his batch of 18 students. “I admired her self-confidence,” he says.
On the next Sunday, after Mass, Sayanora and her parents dropped into the D’Cruze household, which was less than 100 metres from the church. Sayanora introduced Ashley to her parents as her trainer. Later, when things became clear, to both sets of parents, they agreed to the marriage. But the date was fixed eight months hence. The reason: Sayanora was going on a world tour with AR Rahman and his troupe.
It was while she was on this tour that Ashley began to learn new words. “Sayanora would call me up and talk about tracks, recordings, and stage shows,” says Ashley. “She recounted to me all her experiences. It was a new world for me. Most of the time, I was just listening.”
Eventually, Sayanora came back. The wedding took place at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Burnacherry, on May 18, 2009.
It was supposed to start at 4 p.m. But there was an unscheduled power cut.
“It was a tense moment for me,” says Ashley. “So many people had come. And it was quite hot.” In the end, the ceremony began at 4.30 p.m.
After the Mass, when the couple were waiting for the car to take them to the reception hall, they got a shock. A vintage Baby Austin came up, covered with red balloons. “When the car had to be started, the driver went in front and turned a large handle,” says Ashley. “It was a novel experience for us.” The car was arranged by Sayanora’s brother, Swarag Philip, and sister Sruthi. The guests at the reception included Vineeth Srinivasan, Rimi Tomy, Afsal, George Peters, and music director Alphons.
For their honeymoon, they flew to London because Sayanora was performing in a few shows for actor Jayaram and his troupe, which included stars like Kottayam Nazeer, Samvrutha Sunil, Meera Nandan, Bala Bhaskar and Stephen Devassey.
And it was at Birmingham that Ashley and Sayanora got a big surprise. At a farmhouse the troupe organised a party for the newly-wedded couple.
“There was singing and dancing,” says Ashley. “Jayaram toasted us and said, ‘May you live forever and be happy, like now’. My eyes filled with tears. I will never forget it ever.”
Asked to list the plus points of Sayanora, Ashley says, “She cannot keep a grudge with anybody. Five minutes later, she will forget and hug the person. She loves pets. I am so happy about that. For me, my dog, a Labrador called Rambo, is like a family member.”
Sayanora is also generous. “When we go out for dinner, after it is over, Sayanora will ensure that she takes two to three packets of food from the restaurant. Then she makes me give it to the homeless near the Kannur railway station.”
Birthdays are also celebrated with the same feeling of generosity. The second birthday party of their daughter, Zena, was held at the Santhwana Bhavan orphanage at Echoor, Kannur. “Sayanora took the measurement of all the 38 girls and bought dresses for everybody,” says Ashley. “A birthday cake, made in the form of Zena’s favourite animation character, Dora, was cut, and lunch was served for all. We ate with them.”
Meanwhile, when asked to list his wife’s negative traits, Ashley says, “Sayanora becomes angry very fast. But she also cools down quickly. Sometimes, I do get upset by this. But she makes up by being such a sweet mother to Zena. When she goes for shows, she misses her daughter very much. There have been times when Sayanora has cried on the phone.”
And so life goes on for the Kannur-based couple. Ashley tries to be with Sayanora as much as possible. Six months ago, he flew with her to London where she had a performance. And he was much impressed by her.
“On stage, Sayanora is like a lioness,” says Ashley. “She is a powerful and dominating singer. Sayanora sings western songs so well, as if she has been born and brought up outside. But she also has a knack to sing in any language perfectly. I never get bored listening to Sayanora.”
Once Kottayam Nazeer told Sayanora, “You singers are lucky. You can sing a song for an entire lifetime. People never get tired of listening to good songs. On the other hand, I have to come up with new skits all the time.”
Finally, regarding tips for a successful marriage, Ashley says, “There should be a transparency with each other. Be open and honest. I have also never hindered Sayanora’s freedom. She can go anywhere she wants. I have never asked her to change her personality. I want her to remain just the way she was, before her marriage. I think this has made her happy. She always tells me, ‘I don’t feel that I am married at all’.”