Manohar Aich, the 104-year-old former Mr Universe and the first body-builder to win the competition from independent India, breathed his last on Sunday at his home in Dum Dum, West Bengal.
Aich, also known as ‘Pocket Hercules’ because of his short stature, was on a liquid diet for the past few days and finally succumbed to age-related problems.
Aich’s journey started as a coconut vendor at Sealdah station. He went on to win the Mr. Universe competition on March 17, 1952, after lifting the Mr. Hercules title in 1950. In addition, Aich also clinched three gold medals at the Asian Games and won the World Championship of spring pulling by tearing a spring of 275 pounds tension.
Here are five things you should know about India’s Pocket Hercules, Manohar Aich:
1. He was inducted in the Royal Air Force in 1942:
Photo source: deser.pl
Aich joined the Royal Air Force as a physical instructor and with this started his tryst with bodybuilding. Reub Martin, a British officer in the RAF, encouraged him to start weight training. With extreme dedication and hard work, Aich built his physique and was even praised by the RAF officers for the same.
2. During the Quit India movement, Aich slapped a British officer:
Photo source: VeggieFitness
When the 1942 Quit India movement was gaining momentum in India, Aich, who was still working with RAF, slapped a British officer for his offensive remark against India. This led to Aich’s immediate court martial and he was put behind bars.
3. Training in Jail:
Aich utilised his time in jail and started training with the support of the jailor who was kind enough to let him train.
4. Aich was selling coconuts in Kolkata, while training for his win in 1952:
Photo source: HyperVocal
After his release once India became independent, Aich settled in Kolkata and started selling coconuts at Sealdah railway station. Simultaneously, he started doing private body building shows in order to raise money for the 1951 Mr. Universe competition in London.
In 1951, Aich finished second in the competition but stayed back in London. He went on to win the title later next year, at the age of 38.
5. He has trained many celebrity bodybuilders including Satya Paul and Premchand Dogra:
After the 1952 win, Aich tried his luck at the Mr. Universe competition again, but didn’t succeed. So he started doing many body building shows again, with the last show being in 2003 when he was 89 years old.
Aich used to also train other bodybuilders; his students include eight-time national bodybuilding champion Satya Paul and former Mr. Universe Premchand Dogra.
He also joined politics for a brief period. In 1991, he contested the general elections for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but lost because he got only 1.63 lakh votes.