The above is an image of our classmates from Sainik School Amaravathinagar, in front of the Cadets’ Mess at the National Defence Academy (NDA) during our reunion in December 2015. The reunion was hosted by Vice Admiral Ashok Kumar, AVSM, VSM, then Commandant, NDA. Everyone is standing with their hands off their pockets, a rarity in such images of today. Most images one receives on the social media have men standing with their hands deep down their pant pockets.
My mind went back to our school days-from 1971 to 1979, to the times when a cadet with his hands in pockets, was taunted supposedly for playing Pocket Billiards. At times they were queried as to which ball is winning – the Right or the Left one. Owing to this rigorous discipline instilled during the formative years, even after 37 years since our graduation, mere thought of putting one’s hands in pockets will never occur to our classmates; even in their wildest of dreams.
A detailed report on the reunion appears on my blog (Please Click here to read). If you study all the photographs taken both at formal and informal events, you will hardly observe anyone playing ‘Pocket Billiards’. It could all be courtesy the taunts our classmates received. We did not even spare our teachers – especially the new entrants- from similar taunts.
Pocket Billiards is mostly a men’s problem. This is not a sexist view point but a factual one. Women rarely put their hands in their pockets, except perhaps on a cold, chilly day. They generally do not enjoy the liberty of putting their hands in pockets mostly because their attire, even while wearing pants. Women’s pants generally come without pockets and even when they do, the pockets are too shallow to accommodate a whole hand. Women’s pants or jeans are often too tight, thereby making it uncomfortable to shove their hands in. Thus it remains mostly a masculine issue.
Why do men put their hands in pockets? Body language experts and psychologists have different takes on the issue. Is it that they are obsessed with their family treasures? Some experts opine that that there is a subconscious male urge to perpetually hold on to one’s genitals. But holding on to one’s genitals in public is surely an indecent social display and the only way to be close to their genitals is by way of putting their hands in their pockets. It could be that they are scared that their family treasures would fall off or someone would steal them!
‘Pocket Billiards’ by a speaker on a podium is sure to distract and also put off the audience. Such speakers do not know what to do with their hands and try to find places to hide them and this leads to Pocket Billiards. This body language theory is sometimes contradicted by some world famous orators who can hold the audience spell bound, with one of their hands remaining in the pocket. It becomes somewhat obscene when Pocket Billiards is accompanied with a posture of legs wide apart and hips thrust forward. Even so, some psychologists opine that this combination is a confident gesture of the dominant male who wants to tell others around who the boss is. Whatever the theory, it is not a pleasant sight to behold!
One of the most evolved part of human anatomy is our hand – with the wrist, palm and the five fingers. The relationship between our hands and our brain has been well established by scientists. In fact, our hands have become another communication tool.
We salute when we meet a superior officer in the military and we shake hands when we meet someone. All these greetings are done with the open palm and has been associated with truth, honesty, allegiance and submission. Many oaths are still taken with the palm over the heart, or over a holy book. In the olden days, it was to show that you are unarmed and therefore not a threat and from there evolved various salutes and handshakes.
Most common body language theory is that hiding our hands is an instinctive reaction to nervousness while keeping our hands out in the open indicates confidence and also that we have nothing to hide. Pocket Billiards tends to encourage slouching and that is why the militaries around the world have strictly forbidden it, even while off-parade.
Many men feel that they project a cool and confident look with their hands in their pockets without realising that the converse is the truth. More often than not, they project a nervous look, without knowing what to do with their hands. Some psychologists suggest that the habit also demonstrates unwillingness, mistrust and reluctance and is often associated with liars. Be careful, everyone with hands in their pockets need not necessarily be a liar. It may just be a biological need to ward off the cold. Some experts also feel that pocket billiards is merely indicative of a person’s desire to listen rather than speak. Some even differentiate between one hand and both hands in the pocket. Theories abound but the general consensus is that the habit is one of negative body language and needs to be got over.
How to get over the Pocket Billiards syndrome? Like most good habits and bad ones too, they all begin at home. Children take on to it seeing their parents or other adults doing it. By putting your hands in the pockets, you are surely setting a bad example for your children. In case you observe a child putting his hands in pockets, it is best to explain and make him understand that with his hands in the open, he would look smarter and more confident than otherwise. Teachers at schools also have a similar role to ensure that their students do not end up playing Pocket Billiards. Friends and peers are the best to help you out of this dreadful habit. Our classmates, both in the military and civil life, are a sure testimony to this. Another option is to stitch down your front pockets or pin it close. You can always use the back pockets to store your wallet or cell phone.
One needs to pay attention to one’s hands and ensure that they are clean, hygienic and presentable. Make sure to rub a cream or lotion and also a sanitizer on your hands prior to meeting anyone or while going to a gathering. Ensure that you consciously use gestures that will get your message across to those that will help you build alliances and influence people. With your hands in your pockets, you would mostly end up as an ugly duckling.