Former Mr Universe, Manohar Aich, passed away at his home in Kolkata on Sunday. He was 104.
Born in 1912 in Dhamti Village (in Comilla, Bangladesh), Aich started early, and thus began a disciplined life that allowed him to become India’s centennial man.
Even after he was employed by the Royal Air Force, Aich continued with bodybuilding. He won the Mr Universe contest in 1952, 12 months after India’s Asian Games football gold.
The same year Khashaba Jadhav became independent India’s first individual medal winner in wrestling.
From the sooty interiors of London’s train companies to stages across the world and later on the political arena in what culminated as a brief unsuccessful political fling, Aich claimed to live life without regret.
“Monotosh Roy was the only other person I respected,” Aich had told HT after completing 100 years in 2012. Roy was also his biggest competitor. He had beaten him to the Mr Universe title in 1951 but it had only intensified Aich’s determination to win the title. “I worked in a train company in London and trained there for a year,” said Aich.
A year later, he won the title and that was the last time Aich worked anywhere for daily wages.
For the next 50 years, Aich travelled the world flexing his muscles with a suitcase that had written on one side --- ‘Manohar Aich, Mr Universe’.
For a man who was never appreciated with even an Arjuna Award, Aich took pleasure out of living life big and being a role model to everyone around him.
At less than five feet, he had earned the nickname ‘Pocket Hercules’ after winning the Mr Universe title in the group 3 (short) category.
Did he like the name? “People in London gave me the name and it just stuck throughout my life. I don’t mind,” Aich had said.