Volume 1 Issue 35: P.S.A.

Symphony No. 9 and terror

Sunil Sharma

The reality sank in quick.

Not attentive, as they were practising Symphony No. 9.

The public service announcement (PSA) was repeated: Sorry to interrupt! Gunman has entered the building. Please do not panic!

The hall froze.

The PSA advised: Secure the doors. Hide. Cops, on the way.

The kids stood rooted; the music teacher’s baton remained raised; colleagues and parents, incredulous!

Is it joke?

The PSA, in a grim voice, continued: Remain calm. We are monitoring the situation. Cops reaching within minutes.

They shivered.

How is it possible!

A gunman in their midst!

Just few seconds before, they were discussing the technicalities of the Ninth Symphony with the bulky conductor. The children, keen enthusiasts of classical music, following each instruction.

Not every day you come to play Beethoven in a suburban school. The members were excited by the prospect of a grand rehearsal. The “Ode to Joy” was the most important part.

The teacher said—Remember this Ode is as crucial today as it was in 1824! As inspiring and relevant as it was then.

The orchestra was all ears to the tiny Miss Anne who had learnt from a leading German school of music.

She continued: It is sacred, this Ninth and the Ode. Remember Beethoven was deaf! Still the maestro could produce such a time-defying music that is revered worldwide. 

The class was intrigued.

They wanted to create history in a town deaf to music.

The group practiced daily and was to perform next week before a large crowd.

Each thought they were the Beethoven or Schiller, re-born.

Music meant everything to the select members.

It was a gateway to stardom and wealth—and escape from a small-town mindset and stasis.

Then cruel fate struck.

A gunman—out to kill!

The logic of a killer, beyond them.


The gun fire echoed in the corridor and shouts were heard. Somebody screamed.

The children huddled together. Some sat behind the chairs; others slid inside the silk curtains; the music teacher holding the youngest in arms and consoling by singing softly.

Adults hid in nooks.

Raw fear.


They heard someone banging hard with the butt of the gun.

More shouts outside.

Banging, louder this time.

Staccato firing of a round…more screams, in the bare corridor. Folks shouting in pain.

They were terrified inside the hall.

Open up! A demented voice commanded. Open up! Otherwise I shoot through.

Deathly silence…punctuated by loud sobs.

The smoke of the gun powder filtered in. Acrid.

A kid coughed badly.

Open up! If not, I shoot!

More firing, outside.

The sirens becoming louder.

The PSA cracked again: Do not panic! Remain calm!


The gun man enters, shouting: Stop! I hate music! Hate everybody! You must die.

Anne challenges: Why kill innocent kids?

The gun man laughs: Killing the Ninth-choir means killing the finest values.

Miss Anne counters: Hatred never works. Kill me, not kids.

The young killer aims at Miss Courage: OK.

Kids scream.

And then…


Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:


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