Lauren Frayer

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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.

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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.

Updated August 19, 2021 at 1:36 PM ET

NEW DELHI — Afghan music wafts through a market called Kabuli, named for Afghanistan's capital. Narrow lanes are lined with travel agents advertising journeys on Kam Air, an Afghan airline. The bakeries sell thick, doughy Afghan bread. People here speak Dari and Pashto, two main languages of Afghanistan.

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.

Editor's note: One of the photographs in this story, of a crematorium, could be disturbing to some readers.

When health workers finally arrived last month in the remote village of Namanta, up in the forested foothills of Nepal's Himalayas, residents hid in their homes.

They'd been advised not to welcome strangers, who might spread the coronavirus. But it was already too late. Out of 64 households in the village, 30 of them had someone who was ill.

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MUMBAI — Three years ago, when Shiv Joshi was studying to become a doctor at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in central India, he had to choose a specialty. He'd been reading about the Black Death and the Spanish flu, and he wanted to learn how to track infectious diseases through triage, testing and contact tracing. So he decided to specialize in community medicine.

This was in 2018 — a century after the 1918 flu pandemic he was reading about, and two years before the coronavirus would become a full-blown pandemic in India.

MUMBAI, India — Watching horrifying scenes in India's big cities, where COVID-19 patients have been unable to get ambulances, and even the best-equipped hospitals have run out of oxygen, Saurav Kumar shuddered to think what this wave of the pandemic would do to his hometown.

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MUMBAI — Watching his young children gleefully celebrate Holi, the Indian festival of colors, with his father in March, Shalabh Pradhan thought: "This is exactly why we moved back to India."

MUMBAI — India can't catch a break.

On the same day the country confirmed its highest-ever daily death toll from COVID-19, it was also hit by a deadly storm. Cyclone Tauktae barreled into India's west coast overnight packing wind gusts of up to 130 miles per hour — some of the strongest on record — before weakening over land later Tuesday.

MUMBAI, India — Outside an upscale Indian hospital last week, Baljeet Asthana put her phone on selfie mode, propped her eyeglasses on her head so she could stare directly into the camera, and hit record.

MUMBAI, India — Sanchi Gupta was running around, trying to get her hands on an oxygen cylinder — even an empty one.

Her mother was one of 140 COVID-19 patients in Saroj Hospital, one of the best-equipped hospitals in India's capital, New Delhi. She was on a ventilator in intensive care. Then the hospital told Gupta and other families that its oxygen supply had run out. So they had to go out and find oxygen cylinders to bring to the hospital to keep their loved ones alive.

MUMBAI, India — India's top diplomat and his entourage have been forced to self-isolate, participating in a G-7 foreign ministers meeting only virtually — from hotel rooms near the venue in London — after at least two members of the Indian delegation tested positive for the coronavirus.

India has now reported more than 20 million coronavirus infections, including nearly 3.5 million people who are actively being treated for COVID-19. The country's health system is in a state of collapse as hospitals and clinics face dire shortages of beds and lifesaving supplies.

MUMBAI — Santosh Pandey's wife is the head of their village, population about 1,600, near the holy city of Varanasi in northern India. He sometimes answers her phone. So he's up to date on what's happening in town.

And what's happening these days, he said, is horrific.

Fifty people from his village, Ashapur, and a neighboring one, Tilamapur, have died in the past two weeks. Most died at home, gasping for breath, with fevers. But only five or six of them were officially counted as COVID-19 deaths, Pandey said.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

MUMBAI — Sagar Kishore Naharshetivar has been driving a van around southern India with his father lying in the back, hooked up to an oxygen tank. His father has COVID-19 and needs treatment. This past week, they've tried hospitals in three different towns, even crossing state lines from Maharashtra to Telangana.

All the hospitals are full.

MUMBAI — About 100 vaccination centers abruptly shut down Friday in India's financial capital, Mumbai, amid a shortage of doses and as the country confirmed its highest daily jump in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

MUMBAI — India confirmed another record jump in COVID-19 cases Wednesday, as the world's biggest vaccine maker said it was "very stressed" and needs help from the Indian government to boost production.

India is struggling to speed up vaccinations amid its sharpest spike in coronavirus infections since the pandemic began. Authorities are also trying to balance stricter curbs on movement while also ensuring fair voting in five regions holding state elections throughout the month.

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