1952 Mr Universe inches towards century

Kolkata: A day after Sachin Tendulkar created history by becoming the only batsman to notch 100th international century, 1952 Mr Universe Manohar Aich achieved a rare feat of sorts by stepping into his 100th year.

As he turned 99 today, Aich sporting a toothless smile said, "People compare me with Sachin Tendulkar. It`s funny."

His muscles have sagged but the 4ft 11inch Aich, who is known as India`s `Pocket Hercules` for his short size is still full of energy. Ask him to flex his muscles and he does so without any hesitation removing his t-shirt.

"There are some age-related issues but nothing that needs medication," his elder daughter Bani Banerjee said recalling that her mother Jyotika had made a lot of sacrifices for her father to let him pursue his dream.

"Without my mother`s help, he couldn`t have achieved any of that... she passed away in 2001." Aich says there is no mantra to success.

"It`s exercise and simple life," Aich said pained at the latest bodybuilding fad among youngsters.

"They don`t worship their body...they don`t have the time and energy to go through the drills in an old-style gymnasium," he rued.

Recollecting his life-changing moment, Aich said while working as a physical instructor at the Indian Air Force he was jailed for slapping a British officer.

"It was a blessing in disguise. I got fascinated by the weights in the jail. The jailer helped me, supplying special food for me," Aich said.

The bodybuilder did charity shows to fund his Mr Universe 1951 participation in London where he finished second. Aich though stayed back in England to prepare for the next year as he had no money.

"I was not successful that year. But I was determined to do it the following year, so I stayed back in England," he said.

He worked for British Rail and trained himself to win the title in short category next year.

"I returned home only after winning the competition. The British Rail paid for my ticket back home," he said.

Aich was felicitated by the state government and he said, "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."