Mochtar Lubis was born in the entrepôt port town of Padang, West Sumatra, on 7 March 1922, the sixth child of Mara Husein Lubis and his wife Siti MadinahNasution.1 Mochtar’s father, a senior public servant in theDutch colonial government, came originally from the ancestral village of Muara Soro. While Padang was a bustling port of about 40,000 servicing a coastal and international trade, Muara Soro, in upland Tapanuli, remains a tiny straggling nondescript settlement, about 180 kilometres down the road from Padang Sidempuan to Padang, about two kilometres south of the Kotanopan district market.2 Both parents were of the Mandailing ethnic group, a people often regarded by outsiders as subsumed within their more populous Batak neighbours, despite Mandailing resentment of this.3 Largely converted to Islam during the Padri Wars (1821-37) whenMuslims fromMinangkabau invaded from the south, theMandailing people nonetheless retained a strong kinship system and customary practices, though many responded to the volatility in their homeland by seeking their fortune elsewhere. From the middle of the nineteenth century, whole villages relocated to theMalay Peninsula, for example, whereMandailingers became prominent in gold and tin mining as well as commercial agriculture.4 Such financial success beyond their borders contributed to the Mandailing’s reputation as independent-minded, spirited and adventurous.