A former Mr. Universe who has just turned 100 said Sunday that happiness and a life without tensions are the key to his longevity.
Manohar Aich, who is 4 foot 11 inches (150 centimeters) tall, overcame many hurdles, including grinding poverty and a stint in prison, to achieve body building glory.
His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered Sunday in the eastern city of Kolkata to celebrate his birthday the day before.
Hindu priests chanted prayers while a feast was laid out to honor Aich, winner of the 1952 Mr. Universe body building title.
Rippling his muscles and flashing a toothless grin, Aich says his ability to take his troubles lightly and remain happy during difficult times are the secrets to his long life.
That, and a simple diet of milk, fruits and vegetables along with rice, lentils and fish have kept him healthy.
He does not smoke and has never touched alcohol, he said.
Encouraged by a British officer named Reub Martin, who introduced him to weight training, Aich earned praise for his physique from his peers in the air force.
Some years later, however, he was thrown into prison when he protested against colonial oppression.
India’s independence in 1947 led to Aich’s release from jail. Dogged by poverty, Aich and his wife struggled to put their four children through school. There was little cash to indulge his passion for body building, but Aich took up odd jobs to earn a little on the side.
His 1950 win of a “Mr. Hercules” contest spurred him to set his sights on the Mr. Universe tournament in London.
Among his regrets, says Aich, is that he never had a chance to meet his more famous counterpart, a fellow Mr. Universe winner, Arnold Schwarzenegger.