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Where EAST meets the Northwest


POCKET HERCULES. Indian bodybuilder Manohar Aich flexes his muscles while posing for a photograph at a gymnasium in Kolkata, India, in this March 16, 2012 file photo. Aich, a celebrated Indian bodybuilder and former Mr. Universe, died in the eastern city of Kolkata at the age of 104. Aich’s son said his father died from health issues related to his age. (AP Photo/Bikas Das, File)

From The Asian Reporter, V26, #12 (June 20, 2016), pages 7 & 9.

Celebrated Indian bodybuilder Manohar Aich dies at age 104

KOLKATA, India (AP) — Manohar Aich, a celebrated Indian bodybuilder and former Mr. Universe, has died in the eastern city of Kolkata. He was 104 years old.

Aich’s son said his father died of health issues related to his age. He is survived by his four children.

Aich overcame many hurdles, including poverty and a stint in prison, to achieve bodybuilding glory. He won the Mr. Universe title in London in 1952 and returned a hero to India, where many took up bodybuilding, inspired by his success.

He also won several titles when competing in the Asian Bodybuilding Championships. He was known as the "Pocket Hercules" due to his 4’11" inch frame.

Aich, who was born in the small town of Comilla in Bengal, was a puny youngster. But he was attracted to exercising and building his muscles when as a schoolboy he saw a group of wrestlers in action.

In 1942, he joined the Royal Air Force under India’s British colonial rulers and it was there that he began his relentless pursuit of bodybuilding.

Encouraged by a British officer named Reub Martin, who introduced him to weight training, Aich earned praise for his physique from his peers in the air force.

Some years later, however, he was thrown into prison when he protested against colonial oppression.

"It was in the jail that I began weight training seriously. This helped me prepare myself for the world championship," Aich said in 2012.

"In jail I used to practice on my own, without any equipment, sometimes for 12 hours in a day," he recalled.

The jail authorities were impressed with his perseverance and he was given a special diet to help build his stamina.

India’s independence in 1947 led to Aich’s release from jail. Dogged by poverty, Aich and his wife struggled to put their four children through school. There was little cash to indulge his passion for bodybuilding, but Aich took up odd jobs to earn a little on the side.

His 1950 win of a "Mr. Hercules" contest spurred him to set his sights on the Mr. Universe tournament in London.

In 1951, Aich took second in the contest, and stayed on in London to prepare for another shot at the title. He returned to India after winning the title in 1952.

Aich often told his fans that the secret to his long life was his ability to take his troubles lightly and remain happy during difficult times.

That, and a simple diet of milk, fruits, and vegetables along with rice, lentils, and fish kept him healthy, he said.

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