Oh, So Emo: A Companion For Children Dealing With Big Feelings

I first realised the need for Oh, So Emo! when working as a counselling intern at a state board school in Mumbai. More often than not, children do not know that they can access therapeutic help, are not aware of the signs of needing it, or how to ask for it. 

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Gayatri book excerpt

I first realised the need for Oh, So Emo! when working as a counselling intern at a state board school in Mumbai. More often than not, children do not know that they can access therapeutic help, are not aware of the signs of needing it, or how to ask for it. This book is uniquely designed so that those in such situations are empowered with the words and language of therapy, can recognise the need for intervention, and seek it out. Emotionally well-regulated children become independent and self-determined and are able to make their way effectively through the world.’


Excerpted from Oh, So Emo!, written by Gayatri; published by Hachette India.

Oh, So Emo: An Excerpt

Frenny tried to say it as gently as she could, but there was no nice way to put it. ‘That’s why no one wants to sit next to you on the bus. Or in school.’ Neela raised her eyebrows and turned pink. ‘Noooo?’  Frenny nodded. ‘I’m so sorry, Neela, but yes. It’s a bit,  how do we put it, cottage cheesy?’  

Moin said. ‘I don’t smell anything. I just thought that was her perfume, you know, when she got on the bus. I  think y’all are making an unnecessary fuss over everything.’ Neela covered her face with her hands, sat down on her bed and wished the earth would just open up and swallow her. 

‘Sometimes we think when we hide things, we won’t have to face them. And the thing is, the deeper we hide them, the greater the stench they release, Neela,’ Sku said, kindly. He put his head on her knee and waited for her to put her hands down and look at him. They noticed she had been crying when she did.  

Neela knew what the culprit was instantly. The damp towel. Oh, why oh why hadn’t she just washed it days ago? It was such a simple thing to do. Why was she like this? She smashed the heel of her palm into her forehead repeatedly. ‘There, there,’ Sku said. ‘It’s perfectly normal to want to hide what we’re ashamed of. We want to disappear,  run away, pretend it doesn’t exist. But the thing is, it  doesn’t go away until we address it.’  


That went for all emotions, really, even pain and sadness. It was like pushing a ball into the water. No matter how hard you pushed it down, once you let go it would always bounce back up, harder. You couldn’t ignore the ball or wish it away or try to submerge it. Eventually you’d have to pick up the ball and find somewhere to put it.  

‘I guess,’ Moin said, ‘it was kind of like having an  elephant in the room, except…the elephant is now…’ ‘…in my cupboard?’ Neela said, and they all burst out laughing, trying to visualize the scene.  ‘The thing is though I don’t know why I’m like this. I  don’t mean to, I just…do…I forget, or I just don’t see  the things I am supposed to do or understand, even  when it’s right in front of my nose.’ 

It happened a lot in class too. Neela would be paying attention, she knew she was, but then she would start doodling. When the teacher would ask her a question, she’d hear it but not really, you know? So, she would sit there, blank, until the teacher was exasperated. One even threw some chalk at her and the whole class laughed. It was SO embarrassing that she wanted to disappear each time.  

It wasn’t her fault. She had to redirect her attention, and there were techniques and ways to do that. She could set alarms and reminders or task lists, and find other ways to feel interested enough, like making it a  game. And if those didn’t work, maybe it was something more, just the way she was, in her personality, and in her head, and that was okay too.  

‘There are all kinds of people in the world, Neela. Everyone doesn’t enjoy chores or studies. And maybe you’re an artist and a dreamer, and the world needs those too. So, it’s okay to be you. You don’t have to fight who you are. You can just ask for some help to manage the things you have to get done better,’ Sku advised.  

Frenny took Neela’s hand in her own. ‘It took me a  while to realize it’s okay to ask for help, you know. That’s hard too. It’s okay, we’re here for you.’  


When her friends had gone home, Neela went up to her mom and asked if she could teach her some ways of keeping her cupboard in order. They even discussed if they could see a counsellor to see why Neela couldn’t focus and had her attention going everywhere. 

Neela’s mom hugged her. ‘If there’s any help you need, Neela, we’re here for you,’ she said. ‘You know I really need you to point out to me when you can the things I need to do. I just get defensive when you do that to tease me and then I shut down.  Could you do that to help me instead?’ Neela said to her brother. Her brother hugged her and then proceeded to promptly call her ‘stinky Neela’ and ran out of the room holding his nose. Neela’s jaw dropped. How rude! 

Her parents burst into laughter and hugged her. ‘It is okay. We love you. We have your back. We’ll fix this,’ they said. Together, they made lists and charts and set alarms. Neela’s mom put a laundry basket in her room, so she’d remember to put her clothes in it. And she set up a reward system. For every week of laundry and tidying, Neela would earn a treat of her choice, so long as there were no sneaked-in sodas and chocolates during the week. 

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