Lauren Frayer | KCUR

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.

Before dawn Friday, police transported four suspects to the scene of a crime that has outraged their nation: A roadside in southern India, where the men are accused of gang-raping a woman, suffocating her and setting her body on fire.

The woman's Nov. 27 murder sparked protests and candlelight vigils across India. Within 48 hours, police had arrested the four, their brutality allegedly caught on CCTV cameras.

Police said they needed to question the suspects at the crime scene — before daybreak — to have them retrace their steps and collect more evidence.

On a roadside in northern Sri Lanka, a dozen women in bright-colored saris squat in the shade of an open canvas tent, waving tattered photographs at passing cars. They're school portraits, now yellowing, of their children who disappeared more than a decade ago in the country's civil war.

The women weep and nod as each tells her own son's or daughter's story. Kasipillai Romee was 16. She wanted to be a doctor. Sheeva Kumar was 20. He went to work and never came home. Rajendran Uday was 22 when soldiers came at midnight and took him away.

Thousands of Buddhists from all over the world made a pilgrimage this fall to a monastery high in India's Himalayas. Orange-robed monks with shaved heads huddled cross-legged on the floor, as Tibetan opera singers in multicolored gowns teetered under the weight of giant silver headdresses. They carried fruit baskets as offerings and chanted in unison, all praying for the same thing: the Dalai Lama's longevity.

When Martin Luther King Jr. visited the villa in Mumbai, India, where Mohandas Gandhi stayed in the 1920s, he had a special request: He wanted to spend the night in Gandhi's bedroom.

Wednesday marks 150 years since the birth of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Better known as the Mahatma, or great soul, Gandhi was an Indian lawyer who led his country to freedom from British colonial rule in 1947. He was assassinated months later at age 78.

Gandhi is most famous for his philosophy of nonviolence that has inspired civil rights leaders around the world. But his legacy is facing fresh scrutiny against modern ideas about race, feminism and nationalism.

They found it!

More than 36 hours after India lost contact with an unmanned spacecraft it was trying to land near the moon's South Pole, scientists appear to have located it on the moon's surface. But there's no word on what condition it's in.

On the eve of India's surprise Aug. 5 takeover of Kashmir, Sanna Shah was sitting cross-legged on a silk carpet, trying to enjoy the folk singers performing at her cousin's wedding in the state's summer capital, Srinagar.

Nobody could concentrate on the music. Tens of thousands of Indian troops were pouring into Kashmir, already a heavily militarized area. Wedding guests were increasingly worried, trying to figure out what was going on.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Last year, a long-distance truck driver, Mohammad Hashim, was hauling a load of refrigerators out of New Delhi when a dozen strangers on motorbikes forced him off the road.

They pulled him out of his truck and demanded he open the back. They wanted to see if Hashim was transporting cows or beef — which is illegal in many Indian states, because cows are sacred in Hinduism, the majority religion in India.

As tensions continued high between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Thursday that his government's decision to revoke Kashmir's special status marked "a new era" that would free the region of "terrorism and separatism."

India's government on Monday took the extraordinary step of revoking Kashmir's constitutionally guaranteed special status, a move that would tighten its control over the country's only Muslim-majority state.

In a decree issued by President Ram Nath Kovind, Article 370 of India's Constitution was rescinded amid protests and criticism of the move, which would turn the state into a union territory.

When Tinak Bhansali arrived for freshman orientation last month at the SRM Institute of Science and Technology, one of India's elite engineering schools, he was nervous and excited. It was his first time away from his hometown, New Delhi. This was his dream school — a bucolic 250-acre campus in southern India, with palm trees, sprawling stucco buildings and cricket fields.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The first thing you notice, approaching the Ghazipur landfill, is a pack of emaciated feral dogs. Some of them are coughing.

That, and the stench — a putrid mix of rot, burning plastic and a dead animal somewhere close.

From afar, it looks like an arid plateau on the outskirts of India's capital. But this mountain isn't made of earth. It's made of trash.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order early Friday prohibiting U.S. airlines from flying through a specific part of Iranian airspace, citing an "inadvertent risk" to civilian airplanes after Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone.

Elizabeth Taylor's jewels sparkled, but a collection of Indian gems might outshine them.

When the group of Indian jewelry and artifacts goes on auction today in New York, it's expected to fetch more than $115 million — breaking the record set by the late Hollywood star's jewelry collection.

Pakistani TV shows a bloodied Indian fighter pilot in captivity, sipping tea while being interrogated. He addresses his captor as "sir." But he refuses to divulge any information.

Bindu Sampath listens over and over to a voicemail of the giggling granddaughter she's never met. She wonders if she ever will.

Sampath's daughter Nimisha, the child's mother, abruptly left their native India three years ago. She'd gone to dental school a few hundred miles north of their hometown in the southwestern state of Kerala. It was there that she met her future husband. She converted to Islam from Hinduism, and he from Christianity. Authorities say they both joined ISIS.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been reelected and his party is poised to take more seats than the 2014 election, signaling India's support of the strongman leader and his Hindu nationalist ideology.

The voting lasted almost six weeks to accommodate nearly 900 million people who were eligible to cast their votes.

On Thursday, the ballots were counted and results showed Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, winning more seats than any other party.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It looks like a landslide victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India. Votes are still being counted today after elections that lasted six weeks. NPR's Lauren Frayer has been following all of it, and she joins us live from Mumbai.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Early vote results show a landslide victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India. Votes are being counted today after elections that lasted six weeks. NPR's Lauren Frayer has been following it and joins us from Mumbai.

In a dusty lot between farm fields, an Indian Cabinet minister wades into a crowd of supporters chanting his name. Local men climb a tree to catch a glimpse of the famous politician. Women in colorful saris fan their babies in 100-degree heat, and applaud.

Rural communities like this one in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, are where Indian elections are hard fought and won. Two-thirds of Indians live in the countryside, and they vote at a higher rate than their urban counterparts.

Tobiron Nessa has lived in the same impoverished village in northeast India all her life. So has her husband. They married young and raised five children, and now, at age 45, Nessa is about to become a grandmother.

But she has suddenly found herself in an unexpected predicament: Nessa is now the only one in her immediate family whom the Indian government recognizes as a citizen. Her husband and five children have all been left off the National Register of Citizens.

Before dawn, men gather in a suburban Mumbai park to play team-building games, meditate, chant Sanskrit mantras from Hindu scripture and salute a saffron-orange flag — the color, sacred to Hindus, of robes worn by Hindu monks.

Outside a barn in a jungle north of Mumbai, dozens of cows roam in the shade of mango trees and palm fronds. They're doted on by the farm's caretaker, a Hindu monk draped in white robes.

Cows are sacred to Hindus. Saved from slaughter, they live out their days in tranquility at shelters like this across India, courtesy of donations made by worshipers at temples.

At 80, Syed Ikhlaq Latifi's face is lined and leathery, with a stark white beard. But he's still able to scramble up three flights of stairs to his roof to describe what he watched from there, in horror, nearly 30 years ago.

On Dec. 6, 1992, a mob broke through barricades around the Babri Masjid, a 16th century mosque in Latifi's hometown of Ayodhya in northern India. He points to where the mosque's three massive stone domes used to be. It's now an open, dusty lot, as wide as a football field, lined with barbed wire.

A husband and wife. A pair of brothers from a wealthy, upper-class family. A man with a law degree. Another who studied in the United Kingdom and did postgraduate work in Australia, before coming home to settle down in his native Sri Lanka.

Those are the profiles emerging Wednesday, according to Sri Lankan officials and local media, of the suicide bombers who killed more than 350 people in sophisticated, coordinated attacks on churches and hotels there on Easter Sunday. If the Islamic State's claim of responsibility is true, it would be the group's deadliest terror attack.

Tens of millions of Hindus took a ritual dip in the Ganges River this winter as part of the largest religious festival in the world — the Kumbh Mela. For centuries, the festival has been held in various cities in northern India, including Allahabad.

But when pilgrims arrived this year for the Kumbh Mela, Allahabad had a different name.

Updated at 2:15 a.m. ET Tuesday

Police in Sri Lanka have arrested 40 suspects since a wave of deadly suicide attacks Sunday killed more than 300 people and wounded hundreds more. President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday granted the military sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Pages