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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.

At least 130 people have been killed in coordinated bombings in Sri Lanka that targeted luxury hotels and churches, as people gathered for Easter services.

India's oldest private airline, Jet Airways, was one of the first carriers to emerge as the country's economy opened up in the early 1990s. At one time, it boasted more commercial aircraft than any other airline on the subcontinent.

But earlier this week, that once-dazzling fleet of 120 planes was down to just seven. And before dawn Thursday, after months of wooing investors for cash that just didn't come, Jet Airways landed its last plane on the tarmac at its home base in Mumbai — at least for now.

Indian elections are often called the world's largest exercise in democracy. This month, nearly 900 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in national elections that started Thursday and will continue for more than five weeks.

They are deciding whether or not to re-elect Prime Minister Narendra Modi and members of his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP.

Their votes will also make clear the country's level of support for a growing trend in India's politics: Hindu nationalism.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Polls opened today in India's elections, which will last six weeks. And some savvy vendors are cashing in with election-themed fashion. NPR's Lauren Frayer takes us shopping in Mumbai.

An hour after sunrise in India on Thursday, the world's largest exercise of democracy got underway. That's when polls opened on the first day of voting in Indian elections.

A nationwide election in India is a massive undertaking — with a population of 1.3 billion and nearly 900 million eligible voters. This year, there are 543 parliamentary seats up for grabs, including that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who's running for a second term.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In a Himalayan valley surrounded by military barracks, blasts of artillery fire often reverberate across the icy mountain peaks. This is one of the world's longest-running conflict zones. It's near where India and Pakistan recently traded airstrikes. So it's not unusual to see helicopters buzzing overhead.

But on a morning in early February, one particular chopper was not part of the conflict.

An Indian fighter pilot shot down and captured by Pakistan has been released in a goodwill gesture that could defuse the gravest crisis in the disputed India-Pakistan border region in years.

Pakistan's prime minister says his country will return a captured Indian pilot on Friday as a "peace gesture," after his plane was shot down amid airstrikes by both sides this week that have brought the nuclear neighbors close to all-out war.

Gunfire and shelling continues along the Line of Control, the de facto border between Indian and Pakistani zones of Kashmir, a Himalayan territory over which the two countries have fought three wars already. Fearing more attacks, hundreds of civilians on Thursday fled villages on the Pakistani side of the border.

Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET

In a dramatic escalation of violence over their shared Himalayan border, India and Pakistan both claimed Wednesday to have shot down each other's fighter jets, and video emerged of a bloodied, blindfolded Indian pilot in Pakistani custody.

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