Indian reunion in cafe: 'he's out & safe', so is Ghosh

Indian reunion in cafe: 'he's out & safe', so is Ghosh

By: || Updated: 16 Dec 2014 02:09 AM
New Delhi: Two Indian engineers who knew each other - one from Bengal and the other from Andhra - were bound in faraway Sydney as captives of a gunman for more than 15 hours before a late-night dash to safety.




Pushpendu Ghosh, 35, and Vishwakanth Ankireddy, 38, were among those held hostage during a day-long siege at Lindt Cafe in Martin Place in Sydney's central business district.


Ghosh, a student of Howrah's St. Thomas Church School, Calcutta University and then Shivaji University in Kolhapur, had managed to slip under the radar of Indian diplomats communicating with Canberra over the hostage crisis.


The Indian consulate in Sydney came to know about Ghosh's presence in the cafe only after he was evacuated with Vishwakanth and other hostages, officials said.


But their initial conversation with Ghosh and Vishwakanth after their escape tonight paints a picture of two acquaintances - if not friends - who apparently went to the cafe together.


"That's what they've both told us," a senior Indian diplomat at the Indian consulate in Sydney said over the telephone. "What is surprising is that neither Ghosh's company nor Vishwakanth's family indicated to us the possibility that he too was inside."


Ghosh's family, another official said, had contacted the Indian consulate as one among many families worried about the whereabouts of their relatives in Sydney today.


"The Australian authorities were not confirming numbers or names through the operation," this official said. "What we had was a confirmation from Infosys about Vishwakanth, which helped us informally know that he was among the hostages."


Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted late at night that "another Indian hostage", Ghosh, had also been rescued. But she gave away the foreign office's surprise over Ghosh's presence in the cafe by admitting in another tweet that the government had been in constant touch with "our mission in Sydney and the family of Shri Reddy" - with no mention of Ghosh's family.


Ghosh, who studied math at Calcutta University before switching to engineering, has worked as a project manager at Australian bank Westpac since January this year after spending four years in Melbourne with the National Australia Bank.


An information technology solutions expert, Ghosh had earlier worked with telecom firm Telstra - in Melbourne - after beginning his professional career at Infosys.


Ghosh had worked in Melbourne for Infosys, but had then moved back to India where he worked in Bangalore, Chennai and finally Hyderabad.


It was at Infosys that Ghosh met Vishwakanth, the two have told Indian diplomats.


Vishwakanth's father, Eshwar Reddy, had been speaking with his daughter-in-law in Sydney through the day.


After a day spent in desperation, Reddy, a farmer, allowed himself a cry of relief just past 9pm, after his phone pinged with a short, five-word text message.


"He is out and safe," the message from his daughter-in-law Bonthu Shilpa Reddy read.


Vishwakanth, a project manager with Infosys in Sydney, had likely stopped on his way to office at the Lindt Cafe, Shilpa told his father and Indian diplomats.


"We're praying, that's all we can do," Reddy had told this correspondent on the telephone from his home in the afternoon. At 9.30 in the night, he appeared unable to stop sobbing. "I can finally cry in relief," he said.


Reddy hadn't seen Vishwakanth, his daughter-in-law and his four-year-old granddaughter Akshaya, all in Sydney, for the past two years and was preparing to fly to Sydney this coming March - his first overseas trip.


The tickets were booked and the visas stamped.


Even though neither the Indian foreign office nor the Australian government confirmed identities of any of the hostages through the crisis, Infosys had communicated with Reddy this morning.


Later in the afternoon, the firm, which expanded its services in Australia last year by opening an office in Sydney, confirmed in a statement that one of its employees was among the hostages.


Vishwakanth, Shilpa and Akshaya spoke with Reddy and his wife every few days, usually on Skype, the Sydney engineer's cousin Dheeru Bhadra Reddy said. They last spoke on Friday evening.


A 2001 graduate from the Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences (BITS), Pilani, Vishwakanth first took up a job in Hyderabad with Chennai-headquartered firm iNautix Technologies before switching to Infosys.


In 2008, Vishwakanth left for Australia, joining the Infosys team first in Melbourne and then in Sydney, his father said. He had last visited India in 2012.


A photograph posted on Facebook on October 6 last year shows a smiling Akshaya in her mother's arms. Posted below was a message from the child to her dad, Vishwakanth.


"With one of my best friend (in the photo with her mother)," Akshaya wrote. "Other friend is missing in this photo... my dad."


-The Telegraph, Calcutta


Also Read: Sydney Siege: 2 Indian hostages safely rescued

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