Centanarian ‘Mr Universe’ Manohar Aich Passes Away

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Kolkata: “Pocket Hercules” Manohar Aich passed away on Sunday at 2:30 pm at his house. He was 102 years old. Sports Minister Lakshmiratan Shukla has reached his house to pay him respects.

Manohar Aich was born in March 17, 1914 is an Indian bodybuilder. He was born in Comilla District (now in Bangladesh) in a remote village named Dhamti. He was the second Indian to win a Mr Universe title. He did so in the 1952 NABBA Universe Championships. Being only 4 feet 11 inches (approximately 1.50 m) tall, he was given the name “Pocket Hercules”. His chest measured 54 inches (140 cm) with a waist of 23 inches (58 cm). He lived in Baguiati.

Since childhood he was interested in strength related sports, such as wrestling and weight-lifting. At the age of 12, due to a sudden attack of black fever, his health broke down. He regained his strength, however, by physical fitness exercises. He started bodybuilding exercises such as doing push-ups, squats, pull-ups, leg raises, and traditional sit-ups. He only did bodyweight/calisthenics exercises with up to 100 reps per set at that age. He attended the Jubilee School in Dhaka. While at school, he used to go to the Ruplal Byayam Samiti for physical exercises. He began to perform in shows titled Physique and Magic along with P. C. Sorcar in Dhanbad. He used to perform feats like bending steel with his teeth, bending spears with his neck, and resting his belly on swords.

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Long before cricketing demigods captivated a billion Indian hearts, he was the ‘Pocket Hercules’ — all of 4 ft 11 inches — who captured the nation’s imagination by winning the Mr Universe title in 1952. And much like the legendary Hercules, Manohar Aich has had to surmount innumerable challenges in his trailblazing lifetime. His global achievement came in an era when the country rarely made heroes of its sportspeople, leaving him to battle alone near-empty coffers and the pressures of running a family.

Bent by age and the vagaries of time, seated in his non-descript home in Baguihati, on the northern fringes of Kolkata, he had once proudly claimed that he is a “happy man”. “I have no regrets and I remain tension free. My happiest moments have been when I won competitions.”

In 1950, at the age of 36, Aich won the Mr. Hercules contest. In 1951 he stood second in the Mr. Universe contest. In 1952 he placed first in the Pro-Short division of the NABBA Mr. Universe. He also won the World Championship of Spring Pulling by tearing a spring of 275 pounds tension. In 1955 he stood third in the Mr. Universe contest. In 1960 he stood fourth in the Mr. Universe contest at the age of 46 years. He did many bodybuilding shows from 1960. His last show was performed at 2003 at the age of 89.