He is 101 years of age, and still has enough muscle in him to keep going.
Meet Manohar Aich the first Indian to win the Mr Universe title. Providence had not decided to make Manohar a Mr Universe. Standing at 4 feet 11 inches, Manohar did not have the height we would generally associate with a Mr World. Another Mr Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger stands at 6 feet 2 inches. To add to that he at the age of 12 Manohar was afflicted with black fever which impaired his physiology significantly. Born in 1914 in Comilla District (now in Bangladesh) in a remote village named Dhamti in a society where body building was not something which parents would aspire for their son.
However compensating for all this was Manohar’s will and determination to excel in what he did best- Body Building.
Since childhood Manohar found pursuit of fitness and strength related sports like wrestling and weight lifting to his liking. A bout of black fever has Manohar reeling and what followed was a complete break down in his health. However with immense will power Manohar pushed his body with hours of exercise and weight training to regain his strength. During his school days at Jubilee School Dhaka, his time outside classroom was almost entirely spent at Ruplal Byayam Samiti where he had quite a fan following among fellow body builders because of his physique and strength. He got his first break into the public domain through the famous magician P.C. Sarkar, who featured Manohar in his magic show title Physique and Magic. Manohar would regale the audience with feats like bending steel rods with his teeth,
bending spears with his neck and resting his body on swords.
In 1952 Manohar joined the Royal Air Force where he began systematic pursuit of body building under guidance of Reub Martin and British officer with the RAF. Though gentle at heart, Manohar had certain strong likes and dislike, one being his despise of someone deriding India. In RAF, he slapped a RAF officer who had made a comment favouring colonial oppression of India, an action for which Manohar was jailed. In jail Manohar continued his body building to a degree of obsession. For twelve hours a day, he would exercise in his cell. So impressed were the British authorities that a special diet was sanctioned for him.
In 1950 Manohar won the Mr Hercules title which gave him the confidence to try for the Mr Universe. He was 36 yrs old then. There were many younger men vying for the title. At the 1951 Mr Universe competition at London, Manohar came second. This was personally a disappointment for Manohar. He wished to win the contest for India. In 1952 he bagged the Mr Universe title, becoming the first Indian ever to do so. This was followed by a slew of awards in international competition including positions at the Asian Body Building championship. Body builders across the country came to look upon Manohar as the God of Body Building in India. He came fourth at Mr Universe contest in 1960; he was 46 years old then. This indeed is incredible and probably a record which has not been matched.
Despite international success, body building was not a very remunerative sport. Manohar and his wife struggled to run the household. It was difficult to put through their four children through school. There was not much case to spare for indulging in body building. Manohar used to do odd jobs to make provide for the family and his passion.
Despite getting old in years his passion for body building continued and he gave his last public in 2003 show where he flexed his enviable muscles at the age of 89. He did give other much younger body builders a run for their money.
Manohar Aich has successfully mentored many body builders in India. His proteges include Satya Paul, the eight time national champion and Premchand Dogra who became Mr Universe in 1989.
Manohar Aich in an interview said that his incredible success with fitness is all in the mind. Despite many a troubles and concerns he is able to stay positive and happy. He takes a simple diet of milk, fruits, fish and lentils. Smoking and liquor have been a strict no.
Few years back Manohar had a mild stroke and no longer lifts weights. He is still going strong at the age of 101. Manohar Aich has allowed his muscles do the talking, not by dominating through brute strength but by show casing human body as a work of art. More importantly he continues to show how it is important to remain fit in the body and calm in the mind.
Manohar Aich lives with his sons in Baguiati, a suburb of Kolkata.