Julie McCarthy

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As you clutch a cuppa for a bit of winter warmth, spare a moment to consider the elaborate process that goes into producing that seemingly simple sip of tea.

In the biggest tea-growing region in India, the hazards alone range from red spider mites to herds of wild elephants.

Grower Tenzing Bodosa, a native of Assam, fights the former and unusually invites the latter.

From the large Bodo tribe and widely known by his first name, Tenzing stands beside the vermilion flames of a brick oven that provides the heat for a drying contraption erected in his backyard.

On a recent weekday, Vamsi Komarala guides me up to the rooftop of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, where he teaches physics. Fields of solar panels adorn the buildings.

I swipe an index finger across one of the panels to see if weeks of monsoon rains have washed it clean. My finger comes back filthy with grit.

Vamsi tells me the panels are washed twice a week, then explains the grime: "That is because in New Delhi, we have a lot of dust."

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Small cradles of chrysanthemums, illuminated by a single candle, flicker in the moonlight, bobbing along the fast-flowing Ganges River.

They are offerings. For hundreds of millions of Hindus around the world, the river is the goddess Ganga, or Mother Ganga, who descended to Earth from her home in the Milky Way.

Devotees murmur prayers and chant her praises in riverside cities along their ghats, the cement embankments that lead into the river.

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Let's go next to India, where the world's largest democracy tomorrow rolls out an overhaul of the tax system, which has a lot of Indians concerned. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

Typically, India's Bollywood film industry depicts older women as maternal and virtuous. Younger ones often are eye candy, propping up male leads. But a recent crop of films is showing more complex female characters, training a spotlight exclusively on the lives of women — and, even more unusually, on their sexuality.

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Let's turn now to India, where Hindu nationalists are being blamed for igniting a culture war. They're accused of using vigilante violence and intimidation to promote a Hindu way of life for all Indians. Let's hear more now from NPR's Julie McCarthy.

Rap music has found an outlet in Kashmir, the border state between India and Pakistan.

The Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, tucked in the Himalayas, might not seem the most likely venue for this music. But Roushan Illahi, Kashmir's leading rapper, says the guns, soldiers and protracted conflict provide the "street reality" that hip-hop is meant to capture.

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Last year, India tried to force people who had large amounts of hidden cash to deposit it in banks and to face the tax man. That is no small thing because only a tiny percentage of Indians actually pay income tax. From New Delhi, NPR's Julie McCarthy looks at what's behind that.

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For generations, India has tried to embrace religious freedom despite a history of religious violence. A recent election in the country's largest state is putting that tension front and center again. Here's NPR's Julie McCarthy.

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With the Trump administration vowing to tighten rules for skilled workers entering the United States, India's software services companies are worried. Indian IT giants outsource tens of thousands of tech specialists to the United States each year, and limiting the visa program that brings them in could disrupt their multibillion-dollar industry.

One of the biggest-ever overseas successes for Disney is grounded in a real-life story out of India.

A blockbuster Bollywood movie is raking in millions and trying to change entrenched gender roles in India. It's set in Haryana state, where the sex ratio of newborns skews heavily toward boys.

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India may be overtaking China as the world's most polluted country. Even now, which country is worse depends on the day. NPR's Julie McCarthy joins us from New Delhi with new figures about the city's horrific smog, if she can talk through the smog. Hi, Julie.

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Over the last couple of months, over 10,000 people have been injured protesting for one idea. That idea is freedom from India. We're talking about a decades-old dispute over the territory of Kashmir, which is administered by India but also claimed by Pakistan.

With near universal literacy and long life expectancy, the small Indian state of Kerala is a model for the rest of India.

In recent weeks, however, the small state tucked at the bottom of the country has been in the spotlight for what its glowing human development indicators do not reveal.

It sometimes takes an awful event to uncover maladies beneath the surface, and here, it was the savage murder of an underprivileged law student.

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Climate negotiators in Paris are wrangling over "country commitments," "caps" and "cuts" in greenhouse gases.

Some environmentalists, however, argue that the most important "c" word is missing: consumption. In India, they say little will change unless fossil-fuel-reliant rich countries moderate how they consume energy.

"An inconvenient truth is that we do not want to talk about consumption or lifestyle," says environmentalist Sunita Narain.

Conjuring images of a dystopia, the shroud of bad air blanketing New Delhi in recent weeks has intensified global pressure on India to curb its greenhouse gas emissions.

India will arrive at the climate change summit in Paris next week as the third biggest generator of fossil fuel pollution blamed for warming the planet, after China and the U.S.

Half of India's emissions come from burning coal. A visit to the coal-rich northeastern Indian state of Jharkhand reveals how this stands to get even worse.

The Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa says it has shut down its adoption services in India over religious objections to the country's new adoption rules. The Catholic sisters known for their blue and white habits and vow of free service to the poor say they have asked the government to de-register 13 orphanages.

The world's third-largest carbon polluter has submitted its long-range plan to curb greenhouse gas admissions in advance of December's Paris climate summit. India does not commit to an absolute reduction in carbon emissions, but does promise to ramp up renewable energy to help slow global warming.

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