Big Bad Desi Dudes…

One of the things we like to do at the Mutiny is bring to light “a different kind of Desi” from time to time. Sure, we know all about desi docs, entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists and the like. But how about world famous body builders and wrestlers?

Kickin’ Sand in Yo Face

The interesting tale of the only Desi Mr Olympia, Manohar Aich is a fascinating refutation of the received wisdom of so many school playgrounds across the US. Yes Virginia, there are some Bad Desi Dudes out there.

Wikipedia gives his tale rather cursory treatment

Manohar Aich, (born 1912) is an Indian bodybuilder. He won the 1952 Mr Universe championship. He is also three-time Asian Games gold medalist in body building. Being only 5′ tall, he was given the name “Pocket Hercules”. He currently lives near Kolkata and has retained an excellent physique even at the age of 93 years.His chest measured 54 inches with a waist of 23 inches giving him the best v-cut.

For me, it’s the then and now picts that really stand out –

Then – (roughly 1952?)



Now – Stayin’ Alive in 2005

A Manohoar fanpage / picture gallery can be found here.

A few excerpts from a 2001 interview are just flat out fun reading –

“Without regular training”, he told me simply, “I don’t see how one can exist as a human being.” Today, he still works out at least three days a week, at his gymnasium Studio de Physique in Calcutta, where a small group of dedicated athletes undergo training under his supervision.

…the most frequently asked question was about muscle control: “Please teach us to do muscle control”, the body-builders pleaded. Monohar looked at them gravely, but I detected a twinkle in his eyes.

“Before doing muscle-control”, he said gently, “it helps if you have some muscles….”

Manohar, of course, ain’t the only Desi strong man out there. Previous SM coverage was bestowed upon WWE contender Dalip Singh (here, here, here, and here). Unlike Manohar’s 5′, Singh towers at over 7 feet tall.

And, Dalip Singh’s success inspires a new generation of wrestlers chronicled in a weirdly fascinating video on livemint

Wrestlers in India, in spite of struggling to make a living, not earning enough to sustain their special diets, and retaining their edge as they compete in national and international wrestling events, are still hopeful of restoring it to its former glory.

…Most wrestlers have small ambitions hoping to make a living out of government jobs while they wrestle on the side. However, considering their meagre pay, with cost of special diets reaching nearly Rs15,000 a month, they resort to training children in their villages to make an extra buck.

[other related Desis - Midget Bodybuilders... Killer Pro-Kabaddi... Pushup champs... NFL Players... and Pro Boxers...]

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20 thoughts on “Big Bad Desi Dudes…

  1. Definitely give props to Desis that work hard on their physique and are able to achieve the results that they desire. But Virginia, not all may be well in the world of desi body builders. I blogged once about the Raging Roids of Rural Rialkot and unfortunately in the des (just as in here in the states) many seek a shorter route to becoming the next Manohar Aich.

  2. I do know of some desi guys into bodybuilding. I believe it is becoming increasingly popular as well among desi men. Unfortunately a couple have taken to doing steroids as well. It’s become a bit of an obsession.

  3. India Today ran a piece for India’s 60th which featured 60 stories of ‘new India’ and one was the bodybuilding craze sweeping the country, predominantly men with poorly-paid jobs.

    Remember Prem Chand?

  4. Wikipedia says he is a ‘Royal Bengal Tiger’ :-) They don’t mention his political aspirations. He campaigned, IIRC for BJP in West Bengal in the late 90s. When I was growing up in Calcutta in the 70s & 80s Aich was very well-regarded. Body building was not a big sport back then, so someone like Aich was an inspiration. His getting into politics was a bit of a comedown, & he lost the election.

  5. On a related note:

    A man termed as “Indian Hercules” and apparently he has won the title of Mr. Universe thrice (before 1947) and was the first Indian to ever win that title – his name is Kodi Ramamurthy Naidu

    He hails from North Andhra. Srikakulam-Vizainagaram-Visakha districts used to produce quality wrestlers. Even today, this sport thrives in many villages of that area. Incidentally, Karnam Malleswari also hails from the same region.

  6. Indians should learn martial arts more. and Im not talking this goju ryu karate crap, Im talking some wing chuan, tai chi chuan, wushu, savate, etc…

  7. I think this would have been a common everyday sight. (If the link doesn’t work, it’s the body building scene from Ray’s Pather Panchali.

  8. Toned muscles at 93 is really inspiring. Reminds me of my late chacha. My chacha would drink half a bucket of fresh milk every morning before exercising at the village akhada in north karnataka.

  9. Aich was so ahead of his time–giant killers (BBs 5’6″ and under..generally) weren’t really visible on a large scale till the 70s (Mohammed Makawwy, Danny Padilla, Franco Colombu) and today, Lee Priest.

    and Bong Breaker, I do ‘remember’ Prem Chand even though he was competing internationally just a few years after I was born.

  10. Maybe he can train the Indian Prime Minister how to be a man. I cannot believe how India keeps bragging about important they are becoming while they are so impotent in their own region. They keep trying to be friendly with China which repays that with tough talk on Arunachal Pradesh. And now India is trying to get TIbetan freedom protestors from saying too much.

  11. Actually, Manohar Aich was not a Mr Olympia… he won a Mr Universe short man class (1953 or 54)… the other Indians who won in Mr Universe was Monotosh Roy (again short man class … the legendary Steeve Reaves won the overall title) and much later, Premchand Dogra (he won the middle weight class if I am not wrong, not the overall title…)

    Mr Olympia as a contest start in the late 60s, probably after both Monotosh Roy and Manohar Aich had stopped competing…

  12. i have seen mr. aich tearing up a dictionary at the age of 93.he is demigod for the bodybuilders of bengal

  13. Thanks to the medical advances, our life expentancy has gone to 80+. If we dont keep ouself fit our later life will be half dead with all kinds of life style diseases. Now our idol shall be Manohar aich. Live life fully, keep fit always. No amount of wealth and money are equal to the robust health in the later years.

  14. Hi. I know I am a bit late to add a comment but if any one can help me, I wanted to get the address of Manohar Aich. Can anyone help me there