Pocket Hercules: Legend turns 100

A stroke in 2011 has ensured that Manohar Aich hasn't lifted weights in over a year. Still, he is ever present in his eponymously named gymnasium in suburban Kolkata. The young bodybuilders stare in awe as Aich flexes his rippling muscles and flashes his very wrinkled smile. Those muscles have lasted the test of time. In a couple of days, they would have lasted exactly a 100 years.

Aich, at 99 years and 364 days, remains not just an inspiration to trainees in his academy or in Kolkata, but to the universe of bodybuilding in India. He has won every award worth winning in his field, including the coveted Mr Universe title. But on the day of his birth centenary, the grand old man of Indian bodybuilding will win a title he has never won before a government award.

On Saturday, Aich will be honoured by the West Bengal government for the first time in his very long life. Ever since he became Mr Universe in 1952 (incidentally, it was the same year when WB's longest serving chief minister Jyoti Basu was first elected into the state assembly), Aich has waited patiently to be recognised by his state. But that wait has outlasted nine chief ministers.

"I have never been selected for a government award. Other prizes, I won plenty. But I always yearned to be recognised by my state. I am grateful to the new chief minister that they will fill that void on a special day," Aich says, while stretching on a chair in his Dum Dum house.

He lives a simple life. The exterior of the house is as wizened as the owner's. The interior also looks rather dilapidated. But his fitness club -- the Bishnu Manohar Aich's Fitness Centre & Multigym -- is good enough to give the best gymnasiums in Kolkata a complex. Managed by his youngest son, Manoj Aich, the Centre boasts of more than a 100 regular trainees and many more in the waiting line.

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