Merton's first impression of Calcutta is shock. I can only imagine the experience of one who has spent much of the previous 27 years in a rural American monastery as they enter into the "big, beat up, hot, teeming, incredible city." Overwhelming!! In a letter written later to friends he writes...
"My first contact with India was Calcutta. which, no matter how pepared you can be is always a shock. the poverty and misery are overwhelming there..." TMLL p.38.
Later, when Merton returns to Calcutta in November, he has a different impression.
"Returning to Calcutta I have a completeley new impression: greater respect for this vast, crumby city. There is a kind of nobility in its sordidness: the sheer quantity of everything... Calcutta is overwhelming: the elemental city, with no room left for masks. Only the naked truth of overpopultaion, underemployment, hunger, disease, a mixture of great vitality and permanent exhaustion... Before, when I was here first I was too shocked: the trauma made me see the city as a big blur. Now I see detail and contrasts, the infinite variety of light and shade." AJTM p.131-132
Still later he writes... "It is a city I love." AJTM p.171