As a kid I was unremarkable. But eighth grade was a special year. By fluke (even the textbooks seemed especially inspiring that year, never again after that) and lots of hard work, I became one of the rankers (in the top 3) as opposed to being the fourth ranker I was most years.
The fourth ranker is like the onlooker, just a few inches away from all the glory, good but not good enough.
Apart from being a ranker, that year also saw me winning some competitions. As I said, luck was on my side. While most years had handwriting competitions or essay writing competitions that year there were elocution and recitation competitions and I won them. It was the most remarkable year of my entire time in school.
The perks were gift vouchers that I could encash at a particular gift shop. What I bought were symbolic, I think, of the things I still value in life. Given a choice, I would still buy the same things that my eighth-standard-self bought. They were a ball pen, an idol of Lord Ganesha (my favourite God, who is the remover of obstacles and the God of all beginnings) and two books -one of quotations and one about the famous personalities over the ages.
I still have the idol, the pen is gone and the books are still there as well.
Eighth standard was a large piece of the puzzle that shaped my life, determined my choices, made me, me.