12:28 PM IST
I've never been much of a celebrity hound, even in NYC where seeing celebrities is somewhat commonplace. However, when you see a movie star who is the most popular personality in a country of over 1 BILLION people, sometimes you have to stop and take notice.
As we approached baggage claim after our flight to Chennai yesterday, my traveling companions were all excited and had to show us the pictures they took.
"We saw Aishwarya Rai! We saw Aishwarya Rai! She was on OUR flight!"
Because I've spent some time in India, I knew instantly who they were talking about. She's bigger here than the biggest star in the US, by far. In a country where more movies are made than anywhere, Aishwarya Rai's a big deal.
So we had our excitement, saw her again on the way out of the airport and were off to the hotel. That's where the fun starts. I am staying at the Taj Coromandel Hotel in Chennai. It was presented to me as the same hotel that the chairman of the company I am visiting uses, so I knew it was nice - but when I saw Ms. Rai in the lobby checking in as I entered, I knew I was staying somewhere nice.
As I shared this story with my colleagues here in India, they said sure - the three most important people in India are in Chennai; the Prime Minister of the country, Ash Rai, and me. I don't know about that last one, but I feel like VIP in this hotel.