To his friends among the sub-caste of brick makers in the slums of Nagpur, Miranjit Khapur seemed to have it all: two sheets of corrugated iron on his ceiling, a job that enabled him to have half an onion with his evening roti as often as not, a stand pipe less than half an hour's walk away. Yet he knew that there was something missing and he gave it all up to travel the A roads of Britain with all of his belongings on his back.
'It was the crass materialism of India that got me down,' says Khapur. 'On every street corner, it seemed, there was a poster urging you to buy something, often featuring a young model with a bare midriff and toes sticking out all over the place. Gross. I know it's a cliche, but yes, I came here to find myself spiritually, which is why I am living in the porch at All Saints Stevenage.'
Like many from the Indian sub-continent, Khapur struggled to adapt to Britain in the first few weeks. 'The wealth was shocking, of course, but sadly in the end you just screen it out. And the food is so awfully bland - oh, hang on, someone's done that gag already. But on the plus side, the temples are so old and atmospheric, unlike the gaudy concrete dens of noise at home and the British are not nearly as rubbish at cricket as I had been led to believe.'
With his visa about to run out, Khapur is hoping to extend his stay. Rather than take the easy route of teaching Gujarati to evening classes of council outreach workers, he hopes to do some voluntary work among the dispossessed street kids of Stevenage, many of whom cannot even afford a plasma screen TV.
'Of course I miss India sometimes, but I feel that my spiritual destiny is here in Hertfordshire. These poor, deprived people need me,' he says. 'Mind you, some of their customs really are hard to take on board. Do you know when they come back from Disneyland, they don't even have to drink cows' piss and eat cow shit to purify themselves? How weird is that?'