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.

GHAZIPUR BORDER, New Delhi — Every day for the past year, a sugarcane farmer in a bright-green turban has been chanting prayers inside a bamboo tent erected in the middle of a highway on the Indian capital's outskirts.

When comedian Vir Das performed a monologue entitled "Two Indias" on stage at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center last weekend, he spoke of two drastically different sides of his native India: rich and poor, united but also divided over politics, women's rights, Bollywood films and cricket teams.

His gig ended up eliciting two pretty drastically different responses too.

KOLKATA, India — Strings of flags showing one woman's smiling face zigzag back and forth above the old colonial streets of this city formerly known as Calcutta.

The same face appears on the side of Kolkata's city buses and on posters along the banks of a Ganges River branch. It even shows up in graffiti, as the face of a 10-armed Hindu goddess — and as Mother India, banishing Prime Minister Narendra Modi into the Bay of Bengal.

MUMBAI — At a coal depot tucked away in an urban slum, Abdul Moeed Chaudhary surveys his workers. Wiry men wearing flip-flops shovel heaps of coal into mounds that reach the rafters several stories high. Clouds of black dust billow up. Nobody is wearing a mask.

KOLKATA, India — When Sharmistha Chaudhuri decided to get married in her native India, she faced a dilemma.

Chaudhuri, 35, is a PR professional in Austin, Texas. She's independent, educated and has traveled the world. She wanted her wedding to reflect her liberal values and the equal partnership she has with her American fiancé.

NEW DELHI — Inside a former army barracks, Simran Sagar sings a Hindi love song as she makes tea for her fiancé on what they hoped would be their wedding day. But their marriage keeps getting delayed.

Her voice echoes off the cold cement walls. "Like a shooting star that falls from the sky, our lives fell apart, darling," the lyrics go.

This is not how they imagined their first home together: a mattress on the floor, a hot plate to cook on and a police guard stationed out front. It's a secret safe house in India's capital, 200 miles from the village where they grew up.

When President Biden hosts the leaders of Japan, Australia and India at the White House on Friday, it will be part of a push, analysts say, to reorient U.S. foreign policy away from long wars and traditional alliances in Europe and instead focus on countering a fast-rising foe: China.

The four leaders will be meeting for the second time this year as part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, founded in the aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami. In recent years, analysts say the group has emerged as the most important democratic bulwark against China's burgeoning power.

DEOBAND, India — Hundreds of young men in crisp white tunics and skullcaps sit cross-legged in classrooms ringed with porticoes, poring over Islamic texts. From a marble minaret above them, a dozen voices wail Quranic verse in unison.

They start and stop in rounds, echoing like a canon across an otherwise scruffy landscape of rickshaws, tea stalls and open sewers.

Updated August 27, 2021 at 2:23 PM ET

MUMBAI — One of the most prominent symbols of Afghanistan's democracy — the national parliament building, with its giant bronze dome and marble fountains — was a gift from the world's largest democracy.

Alongside the United States, India has spent the past 20 years trying to foster a democratic system in Afghanistan. It invested $3 billion into building Afghan roads, bridges, schools and clinics.

MUMBAI, India – As his teammates cried with joy, India's goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh scrambled atop his goalposts, his padded legs dangling, and stretched his arms wide, pumping two fists in the air.

The curse was broken.

When India defeated Germany to win a bronze medal Thursday in Olympic men's field hockey, it was the country's first medal in that sport since 1980 – a decade before any of the current players were even born.

MUMBAI, India — The mysterious death of a 9-year-old girl from India's most oppressed caste has horrified her country.

How many people have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began?

The official global total as of this week: 4.1 million.

But everyone agrees the true toll is far greater. A study released on Tuesday looks at how much of a disparity there may be in India, one of the epicenters of the pandemic.

The coronavirus has silenced even Dhaka's cacophony.

The notoriously traffic-clogged streets of Bangladesh's capital were eerily empty Thursday, save for soldiers on patrol on the first day of a national lockdown imposed after daily tallies of new coronavirus infections nearly quintupled over the past month.

MUMBAI – When Mumbai began lifting its coronavirus lockdown this month, Rekha Gala could finally reopen her late father's photocopy and stationary store, which she runs with her siblings in a jumble of low-slung businesses north of the city center.

They'd been closed for nearly three months. They needed to recoup business. But she was terrified. Gala had lost both her parents to other illnesses in the past year and several neighbors to COVID-19. She'd only been able to get her first vaccine dose, which she knew wouldn't fully protect her from getting ill.

MUMBAI AND SAN FRANCISCO — One night last month, police crowded into the lobby of Twitter's offices in India's capital New Delhi. They were from an elite squad that normally investigates terrorism and organized crime, and said they were trying to deliver a notice alerting Twitter to misinformation allegedly tweeted by opposition politicians.

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