I check in at the George V and after a  hurried shower, hail a cab and arrive at Le Coupole at little after nine. There are about eight of Playboy people sitting at sidewalk tables pulled together. Waiting on the tables are ice buckets filled with chilling bottles of Chablis and Sancerre, large platters of shucked oysters placed on the bed of ice, their wet and slimy surfaces shivering and  still pulsating with life surrounded by the wedges of lemon strewn in-between the oyster shells. The tables are littered with little plates and the bread crumbs that continue do drop at every tear of the crust.

This is Playboy Foreign Edition’s second international meeting. Its small and intimate with only four countries onboard. Over the years, it would mushroom into an annual, one most important event that brought together Playboy families from around the world. The French and the German crowd is already there. We’re still waiting for the Italians and the Americans to arrive. While everyone else is wine happy and feasting on the freshest and the most delicious oysters – I am guessing, because I have never tasted an oyster in my entire life.  Just the look of them give me creeps, yikes!! Their slimy slippery wetness looking like devil’s eyes makes me nauseous. And they are still alive!! Couldn’t even imagine actively picking one up, let alone putting one in my mouth and slurping it in, chewing or washing it down with a gulp of wine and really enjoying it, as everyone around the tables seems to be doing.

But I am beyond starving. I am famished and feeling physically weak at lack of sleep and with the day like I have had, I am feeling run down. You can eat only so much bread and drink so much wine on an empty stomach. A hefty piece of steak-au-poire avec pommes would be great. But I can’t just go ahead and order it while we are still waiting for the rest – among them my own bosses – who I understand are just checking into the hotel.  So it probably would be another hour or so before they really make it to the restaurant. In the meanwhile, those present are greedily  slurping down oyster after oyster, tearing off pieces of bread and washing them down with the excellent wine. The consumed bottles are taken away and replaced by more, the ice in the buckets replenished and the large aluminum platters filled with oysters keep sliding in and out of their stands like frisbees. All those live vibrating lumps shoved down the palates in easy gulps.

While I hear my stomach growl, I feel a buzz in my head. I watch people still picking up oysters from the platters, squeezing the lemon wedges over them, picking up the shell, putting it halfway through their mouths and slurp up the meat.

To distract my thoughts from my intensifying hunger, I think of the legend that La Coupole has become. Since it opened its doors just before Christmas in 1927, forty five years before, attended by 2500 guests – 1200 bottles of champagne were popped open. Since then it has become the stomping ground for artists and writers, musicians and singers that include Picasso and Matisse. I imagine Josephine Baker at an inside table dining with Simenon. Jean-Paul Sartre holding court at his table # 149 with Simone de Beauvoir listening adoringly. I am imagining Henry Miller to stride in at any moment and charm a meal and a bottle or two of vintage wine out of some sucker for his sheer brilliance and then walk out with his lady friend hanging on his arm. And I would certainly get up and shake hands with Albert Camus, whose existential novels were all the rage ten years earlier among us young and inspiring writers in India. And wouldn’t it be awesome if Serge Gainsbourg were to walk in with gorgeous Jane Birkin, making his trademark flamboyant entrance, to whose J’taime us disco set danced night after night?

‘Come on, try one. They’re so delicious!’ Prods, I no longer remember who, but one of our French editors who I’ll call Rémy. I am rudely awakened from my reveries and brought back to the reality of my poor growling stomach.

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