By M.V. Kamath
Indian Sociology Through Ghurye by S. Devadas Pillai, Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, 404 pp, Rs 495.00
Dictionary of Media and Journalism edited by Chandrakant P. Singh, I.K. International, Delhi, 331 pp, Rs 155
The A to Z of Buddhism by Charles S. Prebish, Vision Books, 280 pp, Rs 190
THERE is about a dictio-nary—any dictionary—something compulsorily attractive that makes one go through it at first sight. Dictionaries come in many forms. However, the distinguishing feature of a dictionary is the arrangement of words or subjects in alphabetical order with meanings given in the same language or another language. The first dictionary in this trilogy, Indian Sociology through Ghurye is remarkable in many ways. Govind Sadashiv Ghurye, to begin with, was a remarkable man who became the first Head of the Department of Sociology, University of Bombay, in 1924 and was responsible for guiding during six decades of his academic career some eighty theses. He himself wrote thirty books and a number of papers and articles covering about 10,000 printed pages and on subjects as wide in range as the caste system, sadhus and Indian asceticism, evolution of religious consciousness, Vedic society and contemporary social tensions. He was a pioneer in guiding what today goes for ‘women'sstudies’.
In this dictionary, Dr Devadas Pillai leads the reader through several lanes and by-lanes in the world of Ghurye in a format made popular by the Encyclopaedia Britannica. There are thematic entries on the eighty theses done under the doyen and most of the entries have an annotative base, filled with Pillai'sexplanations that are meant to answer queries from scholarly readers. Thus, under ‘H’, Ghurye writes about Hanuman, the deification of whom, as Ghurye sees it, is the ‘unique’ item in the legacy of the Ramayana. Hanuman is the only non-tragic character in the epic, a point that many who read the work would have missed. To read this book is to know India.
Chandrakant P. Singh'sDictionary of Media and Journalism may have been originally intended strictly for journalists, whether of print, television, radio or internet media. But no matter. Practically anybody who reads a paper or views a TV programme or listens to radio surely would be interested in knowing what a Beat Call is or what is Betacam or Free Puff or Freebie. Surprisingly, this book is, to accept its compiler'swords, the first of its kind and its uniqueness lies in the simple fact that it tries to link academic and professional needs with experience. But why this dictionary? The objective, as the compiler Chandrakant Singh, who teaches at the prestigious Indian Institute of Communications, New Delhi, says “is to empower the media and journalism students to understand not only the nuances of the medium in which they are trained, but all other media which have a bearing on their professional life.” Over 4,000 key concepts and related items are herein defined, some 1,200 dealing with internet, information and communication technologies, about an equal number dealing with newspaper, magazine, printing and publishing and some more dealing with advertising, public relations, media marketing and management. Chand-rakant Singh is modest and admits to his limitations. Thus, he says that “everything is looked at from the perspective of one person who moved straight from university classrooms to a journalism school and remained in the industry for over a decade before defecting to journalism teaching.”
Defecting? Stuff and nonsense! One wishes there were more such defectors who are knowledgeable about the subject they are dealing with. Actually this dictionary comes at a time when the mass media are undergoing revolutionary changes. These changes are so profound that boundaries are getting blurred and newspapers reflect sound bytes and are concerned more with information than education.
The A to Z of Buddhism, dictionary though it certainly is, falls in an entirely different category. To understand its import and significance the reader would do well to first read the lengthy introduction. It need hardly be said that the majority of technical terminology in this historical dictionary appears either in Sanskrit or Pali, considering that Buddhism was born in north India. What will confuse the non-Indian reader is the full use of diacritical markings intended to help them pronounce words correctly. Such as technique would sound unnecessary to an Indian accustomed with English spelling of Indian names. He is unlikely to confuse ‘Rama’ with anybody else apart from the son of Dasharatha. He would prefer dharmachakra to be spelt the way it is and without any diacritical mark over the letter ‘C’. That said, it must be stated that this dictionary is user-friendly and introduces us to the historical evolution of Buddhism, its important scriptures in Indian, Tibetan and Chinese traditions to sacred and historic Buddhist sites, to the manifestation of Buddhism in biography, art and mythology and to festivals, rites and rituals that configure Buddhist religious practice.
The range of subjects covered is wide though definitions of certain ideas and concepts are sometimes frustratingly short as when the author tries to present the Oryo school of thought. One may wonder whether it is correct to refer to ‘roshi’, which means quite literally “elder teacher” when the Sanskrit word for it would be ‘rishi’. But that would be a matter of opinion. As a dictionary this is a unique work and an excellent introduction to the wide, wide world of Buddhism in all its manifestations.