'Pocket Hercules' aka Bishnu Manohar Aich is no more, but has left behind a legacy for all to remember. Right from his journey as a coconut vendor at Sealdah station to being the first to win the Mr Universe title, Aich had to struggle hard for the name and the fame. However, the Indian in him always rooted him to the ground.
Aich had turned 104 on March 17. Born in Comilla, now in Bangladesh, he started his journey as an instructor in the Royal Indian Air Force in 1942.
On the eve of his 100th irthday, he remembered," It was 1942 and the Quit India movement had gathered considerable momentum. I had been working as a physical instructor in the Royal Indian Air Force, when I protested against the British oppression at the camp. I slapped a British officer, who made an offensive remark against the Indians during the interrogation. A court-martial and jail time ensued but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The jailor had been very kind and allowed me to train. In fact, he encouraged it. Then, I was shifted to the Alipore Presidency Jail but release followed as India won her freedom. I decided to settle in Kolkata."
His next destination was Jogeshwar Paul's akhara, where he exercised everyday before heading to Sealdah station as a coconut vendor.
As the 1951 Mr Universe contest approach, Aich started doing private bodybuilding shows to fund his way to England. He lost the contest, but stayed there to run for the second time. He found a job with the British Rail, which helped him survive there. "I returned home only after winning the 1952 competition," Aich had said.
That was just the beginning. He went ahead to win the Asian Body Building Championships.
On asking him the secret of his longevity, Aich had once said, "Our body is a temple that we must worship. Exercise is the only way to stay healthy."
After suffering a stroke, Aich lamented that he could not hit the gym anymore as the stroke had restricted his movement. Not to be forgotten is the silent contribution of his wife-Jyotika- who dies in 2001.
Indeed, the 104 year old left behind a story for his students to tell the generation after.