A Local Life: Aqiq Khan, Indian-born doctor, dies at 77

February 9, 2013

Born in a cave, the son of an illiterate 16-year-old mother in northern India, Aqiq Khan swam in the Ganges River as a boy. He knocked mangos out of trees for sport — and sustenance. He owned a goat. As a man, he would practice medicine with his wife in Burke, ski, play tennis and travel around the world.

As a member of India’s Muslim minority who grew up before the 1947 partition of the country, he never forgot his roots. His early years were an odyssey of flight from religious, political and cultural strife.

In the second half of his life, he had a comfortable home in the Northern Virginia suburbs and an income healthy enough to support and educate three daughters and give financial assistance to four younger brothers.

He became an American citizen. He read American history. He was a volunteer docent at the Library of Congress and a volunteer poll watcher on Election Day — so enthusiastic that he had to be reminded that poll watching did not include giving advice on whom to vote for.

His daughter Alia Khan described him as a quintessential “mixture of East and West.”


Aqiq Khan, a physician who was born in a cave in India and became a world traveler and humanitarian poses for a portrait in this undated family photo. (Family Photo)

As the man of the household, he expected to be in charge, and he was. But he could do little more than grumble when his Americanized daughters offended his Eastern sense of decorum by wearing tank tops. He would have liked to have taught them to speak Urdu, his native language, but he dropped the idea. It seemed pointless, he figured, since they would live their lives in America.

He retired from his medical practice in 1994 and in retirement studied classical Urdu poetry. He liked to recite his favorite Urdu poems to a fellow countryman and Urdu speaker, Mohsin Khan, to a point where Khan (no relation) said, “My eyes glazed over.”

Dr. Khan, 77, died Dec. 13 at Inova Fairfax Hospital of cardiac arrest. His daughter Alia confirmed the death.

Aqiq Mohammed Khan was born July 31, 1935, in the village of Bara in the Ghazipur district of northern India.

He was the eldest child in his family, the members of which all sacrificed to pay for his education. He went to a Muslim high school in his home town, then graduated in 1954 from Carmichael College in what is now Bangladesh and in 1959 from King Edward Medical University in Lahore, Pakistan. He did postgraduate study in internal medicine at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

He had promised his mother he would practice medicine in Pakistan, but after her death in 1972 he immigrated to the United States. He was a physician in Columbia, Mo., for two years before coming to the Washington area and opening a family and internal-medicine practice with his wife in Burke.

He had married Eu-Eng Khoo in 1966, in her home city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She died in 1994. Besides his daughter, of Washington, survivors include two other daughters, Shaheen Khan of Springfield and Tahsin Cash of Alexandria; and five grandchildren.

Dr. Khan retired after being widowed. Never before had he been a sportsman, but he began playing tennis and giving lessons at the South Run Recreational Center in Springfield. He took up skiing, first at slopes in Pennsylvania and Virginia and later organizing ski trips to Italy and Switzerland.

“He turned his attention to doing all the things he didn’t have time to do as a practicing physician,” said his friend Mohsin Khan. “He said he was fed up with reading medical books. Now he was going to read something else.”

Dr. Khan became a world traveler, often setting out with a large suitcase full of his clothes. But on trips back to Pakistan or other regions where poverty abounded, he often returned without a stitch of clothing in his suitcase. “He was always giving his clothes away,” said Kit Thompson, who since 1974 had lived near Dr. Khan in their Fairfax Station neighborhood.

He established a fund to build and support a primary school for girls in his native village in India, and he insisted his American daughters get good educations, which they did. He did not want them to have to “depend on a man,” his daughter Alia quoted him as having said.

He dressed like a Westerner, the signature mark of his apparel being a bolo tie.

His grandsons and sons-in-law wore bolo ties at his funeral.