and Bagsu - where Israeli backpackers hanging upside down at Indian yogashalas rub shoulders (or knees) with German Chi Gong practitioners learning Tantra at shakti-shiva workshops, where Norwegian kinesiologists get their Vedic charts done, Moroccan Craniosacral therapists treat stressed French economists and Russian businesswomen set up roadside chai (tea) stalls - it's easy to get distracted.
After all, you could be learning how to make string and stone bracelets, to dreadlock hair, to carve wood, to play the sitar or tabla, to paint thangka pictures, to speak Hindi or Tibetan, to set jewels in silver and gold, to dance Rajastan gypsy or Egyptian style – or sampling, improving, perfecting or learning how to teach the ever-present yoga, meditation and reiki. Or all of them at once.
Perhaps an inner child workshop or rebirthing, a consultation with a Vedic astologer, a numerologist or even that guy in specs and kurta reading palms next to the tea shop on Bagsu road would help in the quest to find out why you're here in the first place, what you should be doing with your life and where you're going next? In other words whether you should do the reiki level 1 or the om meditation course.
It's the spiritual equivalent of going to the market without a shopping list and asking a complete stranger what you should make for dinner. Tibetan momos or green Thai curry? Pizza or fish fingers?
(And then you might as well get a panchakarma treatment/homeopathy session/tibetan massage/casting out of demons* while you're at it. After all, you're in India where even the blatantly inauthentic seems more authentic in its inauthenticity than the pretentious watered-down versions available everywhere in the world that isn't India. And it's still a bargain compared to what you'd pay at home. Sometimes. Just.)
And here's where things get overly messy in the spiritual supermarket. When the posters advertise African-Indian-Turkish fusion concerts, Kundalini Siddha meditations and therapies are dynamic, energetic, healing, therapeutic, relaxing and awakening – all at the same time – I can't help thinking about what happens when you mix momos, Thai curry, pizza and fish fingers up together.
Mush, my friends.
And who eats mush?
I'll tell you. Babies. People with no teeth.
In my case I came here to find out more about Ayurveda and so that's what I'll be eating for dinner. In fact that's the diet I'm going to follow from now on. Because when you are already partaking of what is nourishing to you the variety of dishes on offer aren't quite as tempting. Rather than picking and choosing from what we can see already set out on the smorgasbord we should hold out for what we really want - whether it's right in front of us or not. Even if we have to get up and look for it. Dig it up or pluck it from the tree and wash it. Steam or boil or bake it. Wait for it to be properly done.
Because tasting a bit of this and that isn't quite the same as eating a proper meal and, just as your mother always told you, too much snacking from the buffet means you're not hungry at dinnertime.
Real learning, like good nutrition, comes not from putting any old food into our mouths and swallowing but from choosing what to ingest according to sight, smell and taste, chewing properly, digesting and absorbing it until what is separate from us (information) becomes a part of us (knowledge). Half-baked concepts are indigestible and either decay inside us or pass right through us without offering any nutrition at all.
When we find the right food we can't wait to get our teeth into it. After all that's what teeth are for.
*To be fair I'm not absolutely certain that this is available in Bagsu. I may be thinking of Rome.