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TRACKSIDE IN PUNE We arrive at the Royal Western India Turf Club in Pune, the improbable venue for recruitment

interviews for Australian universities. The clubhouse is a spreading bungalow whose 10 metre wide verandah is crowded with punters feverishly following races that are broadcast from Mumbai on external loudspeakers and barking at bookmakers on the phone. The only movement on the racetrack in front is the silent, mechanical bobbing of merry-goround horses later discovered to be ancient women in dappled saris thumping clumps of turf. During a break I chat with the club manager. The social changes engulfing India are showing. A different type of chap is joining now. Quite the wrong sort! he laments. Trading and electronics fellows from Bombay-side and Aurangabad; quite naturally, you understand, we have always preferred the services. I ask what is wrong with the newcomers. Listen to them, he asserts, nodding towards the racket, shouting as if in a bazaar! Such men introduce too many guests, wives and whatnot, and complain strenuously about our facilities! The interviews themselves proceed as a sort of race, with candidates imagining that the number of seats in our institutions is limited. I meet keen, serious students, many wanting to share views on some topic or other. As cricket is one of the few things that India and Australia have in common, several express an opinion. I dont think cricket is good for developing country like India, one postulates, because we are misusing our manpowers. One day games are acceptable, but these five-day tests! Men are failing their examinations, universities are stopping! We are wasting time after time. Baseball is more suitable for India. That is my view. I do not invite his views on gambling at a track with no horses. Others wish to inform me that the backward and scheduled castes have far too many privileges. Scholarships to Ivy League, Silicon and Australia itself! one complains. Eager to show her diligence, a Ms Desiree de Souza announces, The main difference, Sir, between India and Australia is in the number of hours of work put in by each man. In India you will find men putting in rather fewer. (But not convent educated Goan girls, I gather.) Students present me with business cards. Their positions are Top

Murray Laurence

Executive, Young Professional, Successful Scholar. Some wish to expound at length on their research proposals in what, to me, are extremely obscure disciplines. When they finish, they say things like, This, Sir, Im sure you are familiar with, or In this alone I am expert, and hand me a bundle of papers to go with their application, concluding, with a roll of the head, All is correct and in order. Several students ask me what I have from my institution that they can take away, things like handbooks and pens. Alas, I have been cleaned out by pilfering hordes in Karachi. One pleads, furtively, Anything for me, Sir, or my mother? Such as necktie, Nike shoe, watch or dollar from your country? The interviews over we go to the bar. The manager is in an expansive mood. The new style of member might not suit his taste, but they are big spenders. Many have done well on the ponies and are roaring at one another over whisky sodas. As we order our first round, the manager warns loudly, Service of hard ceases at 5pm, on dot! However, beer and lime soda - sweet and salty, will remain available. Just to clear these fellows out, the manager whispers, his eyebrows hinting at conspiracy, service of hard will resume at 6. On dot. This story was published in The Australian in 2008

Murray Laurence