One of the very first to arrive to attend that crucial function before the all-important Conclave locked its doors against the outside world was LawrenceCardinal Picachy of Calcutta. As he got down from the huge car on to the vastbrick-paved yard and proceeded towards the Basilica my Minolta flashed twice orthrice. One or two other pressmen also photographed the Cardinal from India, Inoticed with pleasure.It was with a huge coterie of admirers and followers that Cardinal Siri arrived.So also Cardinal Benelli. Both were front-runners in the first ballots in theprevious election and one of these two was expected to come out of the Conclave asthe new Pope. Hence the photographers vied with each other in taking theirpictures. I also took one each. But I was now mainly waiting for the arrival ofCardinal Parecattil of Ernakulam, ‘my Cardinal’. Then came Cardinal Rossi ofPropaganda in the company of Archbishop Lourdusamy (now a Cardinal). They talkedserious business for a while before the Cardinal entered the Basilica andLourdusamy went back. I didn’t forget to snap the duo.But now the sound of music from inside the Basilica was growing louder and louder.Like the Wedding-guest in Coleridge’s ‘Ancient Mariner’ I had to still reluctantlytarry waiting for my Cardinal to arrive. There was still no sign of his car. Mostof my fellow photographers were preparing to enter the church to cover the Massand the decisive guide-line speech to the Cardinals. It was then that I noticed asolitary figure in red approaching from the huge gateway. This Cardinal lookedlonely, tired, and crestfallen, yet somehow upholding the dignity of a prince ofthe Church. He alone among all the Cardinals arrived on foot, walking hurriedlytowards the Basilica. No camera aimed to take his picture coming as he was withoutbenefit of admirers and supporters. One or two of the big-time photgraphers fromthe US were looking at this pitiable figure almost it seemed contemptously. “Thereare lots of unused frames in my Minolta. I need only a few more to cover CardinalParecattil. So why not snap him, whom nobody appears to care for?”, I thought. Andso I took a photo of this lonely man. He raised his head in some surprise, andwent in silently. Soon afterwards Cardinal Parecattil came from the gianicolohospital where he was staying, smiled at me, and went in, the very last Cardinalto enter the Basilica.With thousands I stood in the Piazza San Petro between the colossal columns ofBernini near his fountain and the huge obelisk in the Vatican looking at the thinpipe raising its head to the left of Michaelangelo’s mammoth dome from the famousfresco-adorned Sistine Chapel to see whether it would spit white smoke this time,fifty-six long hours and seven ballots after the Cardinals had been locked upinside to elect one, most probably from among themselves, as the new successor ofSt. Peter. Two days back I had the rarest of privileges to study the arrangementsin the conclave area as the goddess of fortune had given me one of the sixty cardsdistributed by lot among the 1300 journalists to inspect the secrets of theConclave . I was especially attracted to the pepper containers on the table ofeach cardinal who will be attending the Conclave. I told fellow journalists howtwo millennia back 100s of 1000s of gold coins minted by Caesar Augustus whoforced pregnant Mary to travel all the way to Bethlehem, Tiberius Caesar themaster of Pontius Pilate, and the ‘fiddling’ Nero had found their way into distantKerala in exchange for Kerala’s pepper and pearls and how Alaric the Goth hadasked for 3000 pounds of Indian pepper. as ransom to free the Senate Fathers ofRome. From the stoves arranged to burn straw and chemicals to produce the whiteand black smoke I put some coal pieces into my coat pocket as mementos of thishistoric visit to the Conclave area.