Manohar Aich: The Unsung Hero of Indian Bodybuilding
Manohar Aich was one the most successful Indian as well as International bodybuilders of twentieth century. He was renowned as the ‘Pocket Hercules’ globally. Without the help of modern day equipment, Manohar stunned the whole world with the elegance of his bodybuilding.
Manohar Aich was born on 17th March, 1912 in a small village called Putia in the district of Comilla of undivided Bengal (India), now in Bangladesh. His father Mahesh Chandra Aich and mother Chapala Sundari Devi was not much conventionally educated and belonged to a lower-middle class family. When Manohar was only 12, he was down with fatal black fever. Somehow he survived the illness and regained his vigour by rigorous physical free-hands exercises. He developed affinity towards physical exercises since his childhood.
Manohar Aich was a student of K.L Jubilee School in Dhaka and while studying there, he attended Ruplal Byayam Samiti for his physical exercises. His preparation for bodybuilding started at that period. Aich was equally good in wrestling, weight lifting and playing football since his early life.
Early ill-fate and Turning Point:
When Manohar was merely a teenager, his father fell seriously ill that he had to start earning for his family. He showcased his varied skills in different parts of Comilla district, for his livelihood. In the meantime he met the great magician P.C Sircar at Jubillee School. The magician instantly recognized Manohar’s worth and suggested him to join his troupe.
Once Aich joined the group, there was no looking back for him. His show became an instant hit. Exercises like tearing book of 350 pages bare handedly, bending steel bar with teeth and balancing on spear were amongst most popular few. Unfortunately, one day he met with and accident while balancing on a spear and it left a permanent scar on his neck.
Service Life and Continuation of Bodybuilding:
Aich joined British Royal Air Force in the year of 1942. While serving the Air Force, Manohar seriously took up bodybuilding and a British officer, Reub Martin, helped him a lot in the same. Since Aich was a nationalist, he could not bear the humiliation by a British officer and slapped him. As a result, he was imprisoned. But, his indomitable spirit motivated him to continue bodybuilding in jail bare handedly, even 12 hours a day quite often.
The jail administration was extremely impressed with Aich’s endeavour, that he was provided with special diet.
Release from Jail and Family Life:
With the Independence of India in 1947, Aich was released from jail like many other nationalist leaders. He married Jyotika Aich and found it hard to earn livelihood for his family members including two sons and two daughters besides wife. After settling down in Kolkata (the then Calcutta) Aich chose to sell coconut at Sealdah railway station to earn square meals. Most importantly, no adverse situation could stop him from bodybuilding, even during most difficult days of his life Aich continued his practice on daily basis.
Career in Bodybuilding:
Aich came into fame in the year of 1950 when he won the title Mr. Hercules. This achievement earned him the nickname ‘Pocket Hercules’ due to his short height. He was determined to contest the Mr. Universe competition, hence he stayed in London. But, he ended up as the runner up as another Indian bodybuilder Monotosh Roy won the title. During his stay in London, Aich joined British Railways and occasionally participated in bodybuilding show and exercised hard to achieve his unfulfilled dream. Finally his hard work paid him off with the title of Mr. Universe in the year 1952, on the very birthday of him 17th March. This title conferred him the status of a celebrity, he returned to India with as a National Hero. The then President and Prime Minister congratulated Aich for his phenomenal feat.
Asian Games Title and Other Awards:
Besides the title of Mr. Universe and Mr. Hercules, Aich won Gold Medal in the Asian Games thrice in 1951, 1954 and 1958. He was awarded Banga Bibhushan in the year of 2015 by the Government of West Bengal.
Food Habit of Aich:
Aich was a completely teetotaler and a non-smoker also. Being a professional bodybuilder, he was very careful about his diet chart. Mainly he was dependant on fish, vegetables, milk, lentils and fruits. More than his food habit, he was concerned about way of living. He lived his life simply and never allowed any adverse situation taking control over him.
As a Coach:
Manohar Aich was an ardent follower of old school of body building. He never used modern equipment during his training or suggested his students to do so. Throughout his coaching life he trained his innumerable students with Ancient-Indian method of bodybuilding. He produced many prominent national bodybuilders like Premchand Dogra and Satya Paul from his school.
A great follower of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Aich had a regret of not meeting his idol in life. To relieve his pain a bit he devoured all the movies of Arnold. Aich continued his excellent bodybuilding show even in his 80’s. A life-long worshipper of bodybuilding, an International idol, famously known as Pocket Hercules, Aich breathed his last aged 104 on 5th June, 2016 leaving behind his three children.