They searched for ways to break the monotony. After dinner on many winter nights, my guards sang Pashto songs for hours. My voice and Pashto pronunciation were terrible, but our guards urged me to sing along. The ballads varied. On some evenings, I found myself reluctantly singing Taliban songs that declared that “you have atomic bombs, but we have suicide bombers.”
On other nights, at my guards’ urging, I switched to American tunes. In a halting, off-key voice, I sang Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York” and described it as the story of a villager who tries to succeed in the city and support his family. I sang Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and described it as a portrayal of the struggles of average Americans.
I realized that my guards, too, might have needed a break from our grim existence. But I felt like a performing monkey when they told me to sing for visiting commanders. I knew they were simply laughing at me.
I intentionally avoided American love songs, trying to dispel their belief that all Americans were hedonists. Despite my efforts, romantic songs — whatever their language — were the guards’ favorites.
The Beatles song “She Loves You,” which popped into my head soon after I received my wife’s letter from the Red Cross, was the most popular.
For reasons that baffled me, the guards relished singing it with me. I began by singing its first verse. My three Taliban guards, along with Tahir and Asad, then joined me in the chorus.
“She loves you — yeah, yeah, yeah,” we sang, with Kalashnikovs lying on the floor around us.