Manohar Aich: 10 things you need to know about him
The centenarian bodybuilder had been India's pride from the early days of independence.
Manohar Aich’s claim to fame came as the first Indian Mr. Universe of the post-Independence era. Having wowed the international audiences through generations when words used to reach his countrymen only after a substantial time gap, the ageless bodybuilder from Bengal was the pride of India. The centenarian breathed his last on Sunday, 5th June 2016, at the age of 104.
Here are 10 facts that you need to know about the legendary bodybuilder, Manohar Aich:
#1 On 17th March 1912, Manohar Aich was born in Bengal’s Tipperah district (present-day Comilla), around 100kms south-east of today’s Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, during the British Rule in India.
#2 At the tender age of twelve, he defeated the kala azar (Black fever) which was a lethally unsparing disease that would leave behind only a few survivors during the 1920s. Watching a group of wrestlers in action awakened the zeal in the young Aich to work on his muscles and fitness.
#3 In his early days, he started performing super-strength stunts like bending metal rods with his arms and neck, resting on sharp blades and getting tread on by majestic elephants. During this stint, live shows like Physique and Magic featured Aich alongside the famous magician P. C. Sorcar, which were runaway hits across the nation.
#4 In 1942, Manohar Aich joined the Royal Air Force as a physical instructor where he was finally introduced to weight training by his senior Reub Martin. But during the Quit India Movement, slapping a British officer for insulting Indians landed him in prison.
#5 With India’s Independence, Aich was released from Alipore Presidency Jail following which he decided to settle in Kolkata. This is where he took up serious bodybuilding at Jogeshwar Paul’s akhara while at the same time working as a coconut seller in the city’s bustling Sealdah station.
#6 Winning the Mr. Hercules contest in 1950 coupled with his 4 feet 11 inch stature fetched him the title of ‘Pocket Hercules’ – a nickname that lives on to speak of him to this day.
#7 A second-place finish at the Pro-Short division of the Mr. Universe competition held by the National Amateur Bodybuilders’ Association in London in 1951 firmed up his determination and he stayed back for a year to have another dash at the title. Aich had to serve as a bus conductor to support his expenses there, which culminated in his 1952 triumph, thereby glorifying India’s image at the international platform. He also holds three gold medals from the Asian Games in New Delhi(1951), Manila(1954) and Tokyo(1958).
#8 In 1991, Manohar Aich tried his hand at Politics when he contested the Lok Sabha elections as a BJP candidate – but the outcome wasn’t favourable as he went down as the 2nd runner-up with just over 1.63 lakh votes.
#9 A true ambassador of healthy lifestyle – the former Mr. Universe never smoked or touched alcohol, a certain factor to have contributed in his performing bodybuilding shows till the age of 90 (2003).
#10 His legacy is borne by the many talented pupils he mentored during his lifetime at the Fitness Centre & Multigym he ran – notable among them being another former Mr Universe Premchand Dogra and eight-time national bodybuilding champion Satya Paul.