104-year-old bodybuilder Manohar Aich, who was once a household name in Bengal after becoming India’s first Mr Universe in 1952, died at his Baguiati residence. Aich is survived by two daughters and two sons, one of whom manages a gym and fitness centre to fulfill his father’s dream of making the youth “healthy and strong”.
Aich, who turned 104 on March 17, had become India’s first Mr Universe when he won the 1952 National Amateur Body-Builders’ Association Universe Championships. Born in the district of Comilla (now in Bangladesh), Aich, at just four feet and 11 inches, was not the tallest of men. But encouraged by English officer Reub Martin, Aich took up bodybuilding and made this his passion during his stint at the Royal Air Force under British colonial rulers. He also went on to serve jail term when some years later he protested against colonial oppression, something which Aich considered as “turning point” in his life.
After Independence, Aich was released from jail and despite penury he continued to indulge in his passion for bodybuilding by taking up odd jobs. Aich’s first moment of reckoning came in 1950 when he won the Mr Hercules title and went on to be known as ‘Hercules of India‘ and ‘Pocket Hercules‘ for his pint-size. The following year, he attempted the Mr Universe title in London only to finish runner-up but a determined Aich did not return. He returned only after winning the coveted title in 1952. He also later went on to win gold medals in Asian Body Building Championships.