From hum­blest of roots, doc­tor would see the world

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY BART BARNES bar­nes­bart@wash­post.com

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.”

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.

Aqiq Khan

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