Tamim Ansary: Destiny Disrupted


“Destiny Disrupted is neither a textbook nor a scholarly thesis,” goes the preface. “It’s more what I’d tell you in a coffee house.” 

Isn’t that how we’d rather have history presented to us anyway? Wasn’t it just days ago when supposedly smarter people bashed a purported Nadine Lustre account for tweeting a derogatory remark about history as a subject in school? “Stupid. Go back to being an actress,” they said.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that history is “a waste of time,” but don’t you agree to some extent that most teaching methods and a majority of the curricula need some overhauling for the study of history to become more engaging and internalized? To be so effective that hardly anyone becomes apologists for an evident human rights violator? To have a healthy amount of eastern perspective to balance the overwhelming eurocentrism?

For most students, history has been reduced to a series of unfortunate dates and names that they have to memorize for an exam. So, yeah. Don’t coffee house conversations stay with us longer and give space for our own thoughts? More space to consider one view alongside another?

If the answer is yes, there is a huge possibility that you will find this book well-organized, entertaining, and illuminating. Perhaps not all-encompassing, but that is why it is accessible. Frankopan’s The Silk Roads is a panoramic view, Maalouf’s The Crusades Through Arab Eyes focuses on a specific sequence of events, Ansary’s Destiny Disrupted zooms in and out so that it does not only provide particulars but also a bird’s eye view. All eye-openers, but among the three, I find this to be the most well-written.

I started 2021 with The Silk Roads, 2022 with Destiny Disrupted. This will make a good reading tradition — new year, new eyes. We can use a pair every now and then. 

Happy new eyes, everyone! 

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