Lauren Frayer

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.

Before moving to India, Lauren was a regular freelance contributor to NPR for seven years, based in Madrid. During that time, she substituted for NPR bureau chiefs in Seoul, London, Istanbul, Islamabad, and Jerusalem. She also served as a guest host of Weekend Edition Sunday.

In Europe, Lauren chronicled the economic crisis in Spain & Portugal, where youth unemployment spiked above 50%. She profiled a Portuguese opera singer-turned protest leader, and a 90-year-old survivor of the Spanish Civil War, exhuming her father's remains from a 1930s-era mass grave. From Paris, Lauren reported live on NPR's Morning Edition, as French police moved in on the Charlie Hebdo terror suspects. In the fall of 2015, Lauren spent nearly two months covering the flow of migrants & refugees across Hungary & the Balkans – and profiled a Syrian rapper among them. She interviewed a Holocaust survivor who owed his life to one kind stranger, and managed to get a rare interview with the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders – by sticking her microphone between his bodyguards in the Hague.

Farther afield, she introduced NPR listeners to a Pakistani TV evangelist, a Palestinian surfer girl in Gaza, and K-pop performers campaigning in South Korea's presidential election.

Lauren has also contributed to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the BBC.

Her international career began in the Middle East, where she was an editor on the Associated Press' Middle East regional desk in Cairo, and covered the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Syria and southern Lebanon. In 2007, she spent a year embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, an assignment for which the AP nominated her and her colleagues for a Pulitzer Prize.

On a break from journalism, Lauren drove a Land Rover across Africa for a year, from Cairo to Cape Town, sleeping in a tent on the car's roof. She once made the front page of a Pakistani newspaper, simply for being a woman commuting to work in Islamabad on a bicycle.

Born and raised in a suburb of New York City, Lauren holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from The College of William & Mary in Virginia. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, rusty French and Arabic, and is now learning Hindi.

Chandana Hiran loves reading, arts and crafts, and recycling. At 22, she's enrolled in college, studying to be an accountant. She considers herself a feminist.

But something else is a big part of her identity too.

"I'm slightly dark," Hiran tells NPR in a phone interview from her family's Mumbai home, her bold voice suddenly going soft. "I'd be called one of the dark-skinned people in our country."

A poster-size photo of a little girl in a frilly pink tutu has pride of place on the wall of her grandparents' stately home on the fertile plains of northern India. An album of baby photos is propped on a side table, alongside a gigantic plush pink teddy bear.

India has now surpassed Russia to become the third-worst country affected by the coronavirus, in terms of total infections. Only the United States and Brazil have more.

On Tuesday, India's death toll from COVID-19 crossed 20,000 and its total caseload now exceeds 700,000. Both tallies are now rising at their fastest pace since the pandemic began.

Generations of South Asians have grown up with grocery aisles full of Fair & Lovely skin-lightening products. The brand's TV commercials feature Bollywood stars and equate pale, fair skin with beauty and success.

Those are racial stereotypes many find to be the opposite of fair.

The Trump administration's latest freeze on certain types of work visas, designed to protect American jobs during the COVID-19 crisis, is having a disproportionate effect on workers in India.

India reported a record spike in coronavirus cases Thursday, even as the prime minister ruled out a new nationwide lockdown.

With 12,881 new infections registered, it's the first time India's daily tally has exceeded 12,000. For most of this week, only the United States and Brazil have been adding more new cases daily.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

India's army says 20 of its troops, including an officer, were killed in clashes with Chinese soldiers — in the first deadly confrontation in decades on the two countries' disputed border.

For more than a decade, Sampa Akter worked 12 hours a day at a garment factory in Bangladesh's capital, sewing denim jeans destined for shopping malls around the world. Earning $95 a month, she's been able to support her disabled brother, her sister and their parents.

That is, until late March — when her factory closed because of the coronavirus. Bangladesh has confirmed more than 57,000 cases and nearly 800 COVID-19 deaths in a population of 160 million.

This story was updated on July 6 at 1:07 p.m.

When her father got hurt, a 15-year-old Indian girl used their last $20 to buy a rickety, hot pink bicycle, and pedaled him more than 700 miles to their home village across India — in a heroic, life-saving ride while under coronavirus lockdown.

The story of Jyoti Kumari's epic bike ride has made her a media celebrity, prompted praise from Ivanka Trump and won her offers to try out for India's Olympic team and star as herself in a Bollywood movie.

With India under a nationwide lockdown and religious gatherings banned, Islamic clerics are urging Muslims to observe this weekend's Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of Ramadan, at home with social distancing.

A storm of massive proportions has thumped the coastal border regions of India and Bangladesh, slinging heavy rains and gusts exceeding 100 mph when it made landfall. After days of churning in the Bay of Bengal, Cyclone Amphan came ashore Wednesday afternoon local time on the northeastern coast of India with the strength of a Category 2 hurricane.

The world's biggest coronavirus lockdown has been extended by another two weeks.

For the past five weeks in India, more than 1.3 billion people have been required to shelter indoors, with few exceptions. The lockdown was due to expire Sunday night.

For police, the new coronavirus poses a dilemma: How do you apprehend a suspect in the era of social distancing?

In India, they've come up with a way to lengthen the long arms of the law: giant tongs.

Chinese officials on Tuesday criticized India's decision to cancel orders for more than half a million antibody testing kits. India's decision, announced Monday, came amid accuracy concerns surrounding the Chinese-made kits.

"It is unfair and irresponsible for certain individuals to label Chinese products as 'faulty' and look at issues with preemptive prejudice," Ji Rong, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, said in a statement.

When novel coronavirus cases first emerged in India, authorities acted swiftly. They halted public transit, scrambled to stockpile medical gear and ordered more than 1.3 billion residents to stay indoors. Everyone braced for the worst.

On the first day of India's coronavirus lockdown a month ago, Amar Sankrit realized he couldn't get to work.

Sankrit, 21, normally rides a bus two hours each way to a call center outside New Delhi where he has worked for the past year. His company handles customer service queries for U.S. and U.K. telecom companies.

But on March 25, all public transit was halted. He didn't own a laptop, so he couldn't work from home. He worried about losing pay. On a salary of about $3,000 a year, Sankrit helps support his mother.

Cowering in the grass, a young Muslim man begs for his life.

He's shaking. His hands and face are bloody. His attackers beat him and threaten to douse him with fuel and set him on fire. They accuse him of intentionally trying to spread the coronavirus.

The world's biggest coronavirus lockdown has been extended for 19 more days.

India's 1.3 billion residents have been under lockdown for the past three weeks. Restrictions were set to expire at midnight Tuesday (2:30 p.m. ET). But in a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Indians will have to stay home through May 3.

Under threat of "retaliation" from President Trump, India earlier this week reversed its export restrictions and some companies are ramping up production of a malaria drug Trump has touted as a potential game-changer for fighting COVID-19.

For centuries, Hindus gathered to burn corpses on funeral pyres along the Ganges River. Jews received condolences at home during a seven-day mourning period. Muslims huddled together to wash the corpses of loved ones in Iraq and across the Arab world.

But global burial rituals are being dramatically changed by the coronavirus pandemic.

At least one-quarter of garment workers in Bangladesh — the world's second-largest clothing manufacturer, after China — have been fired or furloughed because of declining global orders amid the coronavirus crisis, according to the Penn State Center for Global Workers' Rights.

Under lockdown, well-off Indians isolate indoors, work from home and get groceries delivered.

But outside their windows, it's a different story: Poor laborers amass in the streets, hungry and homeless.

In a video posted on Twitter, a woman calls down to a crowd of people gathering below her window. They yell back up to her, desperate: "There are 400 of us here without food. We need help. There are lots of children."

With a fraction of the hospital beds and ventilators per capita of developed countries, Indian doctors and public health experts warn an explosion of coronavirus cases could overwhelm their hospitals on a greater scale than what's happening in Italy and the United States — and lead to many millions of deaths.

Not enough toilets – and the ones there are often dirty. Beds crammed together. The only way to shower is with water from a bucket that everyone has to share. No soap or hand sanitizer.

From outside a garage door in India's capital, you can hear the sound of wailing.

Inside, dozens of women in colorful headscarves sit cross-legged on the cement floor, in concentric circles, crying. At the center is the mother of a 17-year-old boy.

The hospital just called: Her son is dead.

Updated at 2:50 pm ET

Riots and mob violence have rocked neighborhoods for three nights in New Delhi — the Indian capital's worst sectarian tumult in decades. At least 20 people have been killed in the fighting, which follows months of mostly peaceful protests over a new citizenship law that excludes Muslim refugees.

When President Trump arrives on his first official visit to India on Monday, his first stop will be Ahmedabad, the largest city in the western state of Gujarat. It's the place where Indian freedom leader Mahatma Gandhi built his ashram, a place for prayer and communal living, on a riverbank lined with Indian lilac trees.

When Aysha Renna decided last month to demonstrate against India's new citizenship law on her college campus in New Delhi, it never occurred to her that doing so might be dangerous.

A court in India has issued a death warrant for four men convicted in the fatal 2012 gang rape of a college student on a New Delhi bus, a crime that sparked huge demonstrations and a nationwide reckoning over sexual violence in India.

The men are scheduled to be executed by hanging at 7 a.m. on Jan. 22, the court in New Delhi announced Tuesday. India's president can still stay their execution, but he is not expected to intervene.

A fresh wave of protests spread across India's biggest cities Monday, hours after masked assailants invaded dormitories on an elite university campus in the capital New Delhi and beat up students and faculty.

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