THE JOURNEY FROM THE CENTRE of Delhi to the new home of India’s Formula 1 racetrack takes you to the periphery of the perpetually expanding urban agglomeration that surrounds the capital. When I travelled, by cab, to visit the track one morning in early October—in what may or may not have been unusually heavy traffic—the journey lasted a brief three and a half hours.
The first faint signs of Formula 1—or rather, of the company behind the race—appear as soon as you cross the Yamuna river and enter Uttar Pradesh: among the myriad hoardings and billboards in Noida, most of them selling real estate in some form or another, the footprint of the Jaypee Group is light but visible, crowded by competition from the dozens of other developers doing business at Delhi’s frontiers. But as you head south through Noida, towards the area known as Greater Noida, and the area beyond that, now known as the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority—which we will perhaps soon call simply Yeida—the Jaypee Group logo seems to be represented on the majority of available flat surfaces. The hoardings advertise the company’s residential projects (Jaypee Wish Town, Jaypee Greens Sports City), its subsidiary businesses (Jaypee Cement, Jaypee Infratech), its luxury hotel (Jaypee Greens Golf and Spa Resort) and, of course, its upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix, a project of Jaypee Sports International.
In fact, the last road on the journey to the Buddh International Circuit at Jaypee Greens Sports City is another Jaypee undertaking, the Yamuna Expressway—a `15 billion megaproject that will eventually stretch 163 km from Noida to Agra. Past the built-up areas of Greater Noida, the highway cuts through the jagged border where city and village overlap. Along the roadside, scattered construction projects kick up clouds of dust around unfinished concrete towers with steel rebar still sprouting from their uppermost floors. Here and there, narrow dirt roads branch off the highway into nearby villages, while a few villagers can be seen selling fruit and vegetables from wooden carts under an interchange.