Sushmita Pathak

When Asha Gond first started skateboarding, neighbors in her village of Janwar in central India were aghast. They urged the teenager's parents to keep her busy with housework or get her married. When she walked through the village, skateboard in hand, they would sneer at her and make disparaging comments. Skateboarding is for boys, Gond, now 21, recalls the villagers saying.

Each week, we answer frequently asked questions about life during the coronavirus crisis. This week, we look at some of the questions being posed by children in India, which is in the midst of the world's worst outbreak.

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.

Sohini Mitter is a huge cricket fan. Normally, she would never miss the Indian Premier League (IPL), a glamorous, action-packed cricket tournament held every year during the months of April and May — and one of the biggest in the world. But this year, Mitter had other things on her mind.

"My parents' illness coincided with the IPL," Mitter told NPR.

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 — 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.

HYDERABAD, India — One of the largest gatherings of people in the world continues in northern India amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and a weakening supply of vaccines.

In a narrow lane near Mumbai's docks, commuters on bicycles weave through the crowd as workers push wooden carts loaded with heavy burlap sacks into warehouses.

Thirty-eight-year-old laborer Mohammad Yaqoob unloads sacks full of marbles from a truck. When he gets tired and thirsty, he walks to an ornate stone structure in the middle of the bustling street. It's a drinking fountain, or pyau (sometimes spelled pyaav), as it's called in the local Hindi and Marathi languages.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

India's commercial capital, Mumbai, has some amazing architecture - gothic towers, art deco buildings. But there's another part of Mumbai's cultural heritage you probably won't find in any guidebook - colonial-era drinking fountains. Most are in disrepair, and there's an effort underway to change that. NPR's India producer Sushmita Pathak has the story.

(SOUNDBITE OF STREET AMBIENCE)

In a mud-walled house in rural northern India, Meera Devi sits across from a woman who recounts how four men broke into her house and raped her.

"They [people in positions of political power or of a higher caste] can do anything. They can even kill us," the victim tells Meera, who's recording the interview on her smartphone. The woman's husband sits on the floor on the side, listening to the interview with a pained expression. He later says, "We don't trust anyone except Lahariya."

India is seeing a substantial number of coronavirus variants. But it is unclear whether these are contributing to a new surge in cases there.

On Wednesday, India reported 47,262 new cases, the highest jump since November. Coronavirus-related fatalities are also increasing with 275 deaths reported on Wednesday, the most India has seen this year.

On a leafy uphill road in Mumbai's Bandra suburb, a fire burns at a Catholic shrine. Garlands adorn a cross and idols of saints below it as pedestrians walk by wearing masks. A nondescript sign at the back of the shrine tells visitors that the cross was erected in 1897 when the city was battling another pandemic.

A court in New Delhi delivered a verdict Wednesday in one of India's most high-profile #MeToo cases. But it was the accuser herself who was on trial, not the man she alleged had sexually harassed her.

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In 2010, Indian teacher Ranjitsinh Disale heard that one of his teenage female students was going to marry a man in his 30s.

India's drug regulators gave the country a gift on New Year's Day: a vaccine against the coronavirus.

An Indian minister confirmed reports that an expert panel had authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use in India on Friday, making it the first coronavirus vaccine to be authorized in India.

"Last year began with corona, but this year is beginning with a vaccine," Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters Saturday.

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