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.

Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

A week before the U.S. presidential election, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed a military agreement Tuesday in India before heading to Sri Lanka on a multicountry tour aimed at pushing the Trump administration's anti-China message.

Pompeo was joined in New Delhi by U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Together they signed a pact with their Indian counterparts to share sensitive satellite data, often used to steer missiles and drones.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper are both in India's capital today. They signed military agreements and pushed the Trump administration's anti-China message. NPR's Lauren Frayer has details.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRUMPETS)

Citing a "reprisal" by the Indian government against its human rights work, Amnesty International said Tuesday that it had to lay off staff and halt operations in India.

Visitors are capped at 5,000 a day. Everyone must wear a mask and have their temperature taken. Tickets are digital. Selfies are allowed, but no group photos. And no touching the gleaming white marble.

Those are among the new coronavirus-era rules at India's Taj Mahal, which reopened to tourists at sunrise Monday for the first time in more than six months. The monument shut on March 17, just days before India imposed the world's biggest coronavirus lockdown, when infections were still low in the country.

With nearly 98,000 new coronavirus cases confirmed Thursday, India again broke the record for the highest daily tally of infections for any country since the pandemic began. It is on track, within weeks, to become the worst-affected country in the world.

India's parliament reopened Monday for the first time in nearly six months, but at least 25 lawmakers were barred from entering the chamber after testing positive for the coronavirus.

With the coronavirus spreading faster in India than anywhere in the world, the Indian government on Monday announced the country's biggest economic contraction in 24 years.

Many Indians are tweeting support Wednesday for Kamala Harris, celebrating their connection to the new presumptive Democratic nominee for vice president, whose mother was from India.

Harris is not only the first woman of color to appear on a major U.S. presidential ticket, but she is also the first person of South Asian descent.

An Air India Express flight overshot its landing in heavy rain Friday night, skidding off a runway and plunging down a 35-foot slope – and cracking the Boeing 737 in two.

At least 17 people died, officials said. The jetliner had 190 people aboard on the flight from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Kozhikode in Kerala, a state in southern India.

"I offer my heartfelt condolences to their next of kin & pray for speedy recovery of the injured," Indian Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter.

When India imposed coronavirus restrictions in late March, Arman Rathod's work dried up.

The 29-year-old had made a living washing cars and painting statues of Hindu gods in his hometown of Valsad, in western India. Broke and bored under lockdown, Rathod and his friends started recording videos of themselves in April on the social media app TikTok.

With 32,695 new coronavirus cases, India broke its own record Thursday for the virus's biggest daily spike.

India has been setting such records almost daily. Only the United States and Brazil have had more infections.

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.

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.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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.

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