Kolkata, June 5 (IANS) Former Mr Universe and celebrated body-builder Manohar Aich died at his home here following old age-related health complications, family sources said. He was 104.
A widower, Aich is survived by his two sons and two daughters.
Fully fit till some time back, Aich breathed his last at his Baguiati home in northeastern Kolkata at 2.30 p.m. on Sunday. As he had earlier signed a pledge to donate his body posthumously it was handed over to the R.G Kar Medical college and hospital in the evening, his son said.
“He died around 2.30 p.m. He was 104 years old,” his son told IANS.
Aich won the Mr Universe title in 1952, and was given the name “Pocket Hercules” due to his four feet, 11 inch frame.
In 1950, at the age of 36, Aich won the Mr Hercules contest.
In 1951 he had finished second in the Mr Universe contest and he stayed back in London to have another go in the Pro-Short division of the Mr Universe contest, eventually winning it a year later.
Born in Comilla district, now in Bangladesh, Aich joined the Royal Indian Air Force in 1942 — when India was still a British colony — and took up bodybuilding, encouraged by British officer Reub Martin.
And Aich kept his daily exercising routine till sometime back.
“If you exercise daily, you won’t fall ill. When you are young, you train to build but when you are old you train to maintain,” he said in an interview to a fitness portal years back.
In 1991, he contested Lok Sabha elections as a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate and finished third, collecting over 1.63 lakh votes.
His approach to life was simple and he believed in speaking the truth always. In 2015 he was given the Banga Bibhusan award by the West Bengal government.
“He always told us to be honest and to speak the truth,” Aich’s daughter Bani Banerjee had said in an interview sometime back.
Aich stayed back in London to practice and train after coming up second best in 1951. Living in such a city was costly and so he had to work as a bus conductor.
“He had once told me, ‘I had to work as a bus conductor in London to live there and train’, and he was so determined he won it next year,” Ashim Mallik, a former body-builder who had seen Aich from close quarters, told IANS.
Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi decribed Aich as a “legend of Indian body building” and conveyed his heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee condoled Aich’s death on Twitter.
“Saddened at the passing of world famous body-builder Manohar Aich. He made us proud. Rest in Peace,” Banerjee tweeted.
Minister of state for sports and former Bengal cricket captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla visited Aich’s home to offer his condolences.
With his death a gloom also descended on the body building fraternity of the city.
“It is a great loss for not only Bengal but also India,” said former Mr India Tushar Sil.
Mallik said: “Quite shocked and sad to hear the news. If you have not seen him performing live you have missed something in life.”