It is my first day in Mir Ali. It is amazing how given time, a human being can adjust to even the most vile and abnormal situations and circumstances. Today my struggle to adapt begins; a struggle to get used to the hunger, pain, mental and verbal abuse, and of course fear, the only scheduled contents of the days ahead. I realize that if I am to somehow survive what my captors have in store for me, I will have to fight back all that I know or expect to be normal. My captors constantly bark instructions or insults at me. I don’t know which, but I think they are actually incensed by my inability, as an infidel, to understand a tongue I am hearing for the first time in my life. I am in a very dark room and the only ray of light creeps in from a tiny hole in the ceiling which will be used to put the heater’s exhaust pipe through in the winters. The first assault on my senses is the stench. Eid is approaching and I am locked in a room that was previously used to hold sheep. The reek of the soiled floor and the smell of the filthy room burns my nostrils. I also smell awful. I don’t think I have ever smelt as bad even after hours of playing football in the sweltering Lahori summer. I am sitting on the damp muddy floor. I think of the comfort of my bed back home. I raise my hands and look at the rusted metal chains at my wrists; how different from the beautifully crafted and caressing bracelet of my favorite Rolex. I am trying to ignore the gnawing and grumbling vacuum of hunger in my belly. I am aware of only pain and fear. Will I survive today? Will I be alive by the end of the week? I think about the faces of my captors, the monsters who will torture and mutilate me for money for the next 4 and half years. I am looking my body over, searching for any signs of strength in my spoilt, elitist, and luxury-ridden limbs. I am thinking about my identity in this joint. I have ceased to be Shahbaz. Ceased to be someone’s child, brother, husband, or friend. Here I am only a prisoner, a kedi, a baandi. I am almost offended by the thought, not yet knowing that for the years to come, these will be the kindest words used to refer to me. But they can call me anything they want. I am free. l am free. Today begins my internal battle to hold on to all the scattered and broken pieces of myself. I will hold myself together, I will find strength and patience somehow. It is truly amazing what the human body and mind can endure in order to survive. I am groggy from all the drugs injected into my system and every pore and bone in my body is screaming in pain, unbelievable pain, and all at once! Ribs, legs, hands, face. I have a cut underneath my eye that is bleeding. The chains are burning and biting into my wrists and ankles. It is simmering hot. A kind of hot that I have never experienced before. A realization slowly creeps in: I will never be even remotely close to the vicinity of being comfortable regardless of the weather. There is a red bucket in my cell and I think it is my toilet. I also get one ‘lota’ of water which is supposed to last the entire day; for wuzu, drinking, and using the toilet. I don’t know this and so I put the lota to my mouth and guzzle it down my parched mouth. I will only learn the hard way and will soon know better to ration my supply of water. I am distracted from the thirst only by the sound of mosquitos. I hate it even today, along with the sounds of planes. For breakfast, I am given black tea without sugar or milk and a moldy slice of bread that is inedible. In a few days, I will learn to let the tea cool down and add it to my supply of water. My one meal of the day consists of Maggi noodles, which I too break down into two portions; one for lunch, and one cold rubbery portion for dinner. The most ridiculous mistake I will make is to inform my captors that I can’t physically bring myself to eat Maggie Noodles anymore. They will oblige my request by changing the daily meal plan to a piece of animal fat which I will learn to gulp down every day for the next year. Fear can be explained. So can pain with much effort. Loneliness, however, is something that can never be explained. I am lucky I have my own company and humor, or at least, so I think. I try to smile regardless of the situation. A year and a half later I will be severely injured in a drone strike and moved to my kidnapper’s house, and his two-year-old Uzbek son will hobble over towards me and make a face of bewilderment which will make me crack up. This will be the first time in years that I will laugh. Laugh not recalling a funny situation or figment from memory, but laugh because of an actual human being in the cold reality of my bleak days. Smiling and laughing will recede to some inner recesses of my being along with many other emotions that I had previously taken for granted. My cell guard actually seems nice and friendly on the first day. I will soon learn first-hand that where the wrath of the Taliban ends, begins the mercy of an Uzbek. After my first day in this cell, all will change. I will become a different person. I will learn to retire all the emotions, comforts, and luxuries that I had taken for granted in an attempt to forge a will to survive. I will find comfort and superhuman strength in my faith. Comfort and the most precious gift of hope; a hope to see the dear faces that are slowly fading. I think about my father and something that I learnt from him over the years, Perseverance. I tell myself that someday I will look back and smile at all of this, and this thought gives me some strength.