Another Sao Paulo summer day, another thunderstorm. Every day through the high-summer months of February and March as the hour approaches late afternoon something Biblical and majestic starts to happen in the sky. The whole world slowly darkens as the sky closes down, drawing a blanket of graphite over everything you can see. The air, already heavy, gets musky with the smell of the leaves about to be drenched. You can almost see the insects scurrying for shelter as the first droplets plop fatly onto the ground, through the vines on the trees. I am of course no stranger to thunderstorms, having grown up in the land of the kalboishakhis. Memories of dancing on the roof under the sheer weight of the monsoon rains are still fresh in my mind, as is the vision of my grandmother’s garden in Dhaka’s Cantonment, bright wet green after the rains and strewn with the little unripe mangoes we would then make into deliciously spicy kacha aam bhorta. But this rain here in Brazil is different. It’s somehow less welcoming, it’s not the kind of rain you’d play and dance with. It’s deeper, darker, heavier. Amazonian. It reminds you, with every drop and splatter, that you’re living in the middle of a jungle. On borrowed land. Perhaps even on borrowed time. It’s incessant, for one. It’s not the quick refreshing downpour of the Asian afternoon that we’re used to, and can plan nashta and shopping around. It lives on its own time, the sky heaving and pouring until you think there can’t possibly be any wet left, and yet still it falls. The world lights up in a startling electric white with every bolt of lightning, followed by the kind of ear-shattering thunderclap that grabs hold of your heart in a strange, primordial fear. I have screamed out loud involuntarily more than once at these bolts of thunder, and am always struck by how here even the most piercing scream would be completely drowned out by the sheer volume of the noise of nature. The trees sag under the weight of the water, drooping to protect themselves, and the gutters in this hilly city rush like small rivers, meeting at the bottoms of the hills to flood and soak the cars and even the living rooms of the poor souls who don’t live on higher ground. Every day there is news of more destruction from the rain, and as we drive around afterwards, we see images with a kind of brutal poetry – roadside trees upturned with such force that their surrounding concrete lies jagged, pointing in shards into the air, walls too waterlogged to stand, crumbling onto pavements. I’ve been reading two of my favourite authors recently – The Architecture of Happiness by Alain De Botton and The Tell-tale Mind by V.S. Ramachandran. De Botton’s thinking, about how the very shapes and colours and weights and textures that surround us evoke in us emotions that we are hard-wired to experience, feels very real to me here. Our house is on a quiet residential street, on thankfully relatively high ground. There is a large, purple flower-laden tibouchina tree out front, and in the back, there is a small but verdant garden, with a guava tree, a pitanga tree, and many bushes and plants I don’t know. There is an unmistakeably jungly quality about the garden – so much so that garden almost seems the wrong word to describe it. It’s as far from the kind of gentle English garden, laid out with a nice vegetable plot, creeping roses and sun loungers, that I imagine when I hear the word garden, as its possible to be. The green here is dark and bright all at once, assaultingly deep. The sun, which shines all morning, divides the garden into patches of scorching white heat and areas of dark, hot shade. The wildlife, from insects to worms to birds, is absolutely everywhere. And the overwhelming sense I get, whether I am lying on the white cotton hammock that I bought back in Recife last year, or whether I’m inside, by the window, watching the storm with a soothing cup of tea – the overwhelming sense I get is that if we were all to leave, all the residents of Sao Paulo, to leave, tomorrow, it would take mere moments, days, for this great city to be consumed back into its natural state of jungle. It’s that primitive feeling of living on borrowed time (in an existential sense of course) that I am thinking about today, as I wonder why my heart and brain react so differently to the rains in different parts of the world.