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.

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.

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

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

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.

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